Grow Red-Twig Dogwoods for Winter Color

Though beautiful throughout the seasons (pretty leaves, flowers, berries), red-twig dogwood saves the best for winter, when its stems shoot up like fiery flares into the drab and snowy skies. Do as designer Janet Bligh did here and site them when you can really admire their blistering hue against winter’s bluster. You’ll be in for one unforgettable sight. Very easy to grow, but a few tricks can help you to get the best from them.

(Above) Red-twig dogwood is a tall shrub native to North America where it grows in wet marshy areas such as the banks of lakes and streams. Look at the bonfire of color it brings when planted with golden sedge .


1. Light: They can tolerate some shade but for the most brilliant red (or yellow depending on the variety) color plant in full sun.

2. Growth: This plant spreads by producing suckers. (Suckers are vigorous vertical growth coming from the roots or lower main stem of a plant.) If you want an expanse of red-twig dogwood go ahead and leave it alone, but if you need to manage the plant remove suckers ASAP. Remove suckers by clipping off the entire stem at the base of the plant with clean, sharp pruners.

3. Pruning: Because the youngest stems have the brightest color, you’ve got to regularly prune away the old ones that have faded in order to have that stunning effect. Pruning should be done when the plants are dormant in February and March. Either remove about 1/3 of the oldest stems each year, or as an alternative to annual pruning, prune all stems close to the ground in early spring every 2-3 years to renew. In spring new stems will emerge and will and reveal their bright color in the fall.

Follow these three tips and you’ll have that #gardenenvy red-twig look in winter.


Variegated Red Twig Dogwood 

Vigorous and adaptable, naturally forms a thicket of upright, blood red stems clothed by variegated leaves. Up to 8′ tall, 6′ wide. Partial to full sun. Zone: 2 – 8

Red Twig Dogwood 

Among the largest of the red-twig dogwoods. Current year’s growth features outstanding coral-red branches on a multi-stemmed shrub. Up to 9′ tall and 5′ wide. Partial to full sun. Zone: 2 – 8

Yellow Twig Dogwood

A yellow-twig dogwood is just a different cultivar of a red-twig dogwood! If you really want a traffic-stopping show, plant red and yellow ones together. Up to 8′ tall, 9′ wide. Partial to full sun. Zone: 2 – 8

Arctic Fire™ Red Twig Dogwood

Unlike most Cornus that reach 8 to 10 feet tall, this one grows to only half the height (but still manages to put on a remarkable show). Up to 4′ tall and wide. Partial to full sun. Zone: 3 – 7

If you have questions about growing red-twig dogwood, please do leave a comment below. We’re here to help!

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