Red Twig Dogwood

Red twig dogwood will brighten your winter landscaping with its bright red branches, but the shrubs can also provide four-season interest, with beautiful spring blossoms, variegated leaves during summer, and berries from summer to fall.

What is the Red Twig Dogwood tree?

Several dogwood species have cultivars with the “red-twig” label as part of the common name. Depending on the variety, these shrubs bear either dark green or variegated leaves (greenish-gray with a white edge) and small white flowers that form in flat clusters. The flowers are succeeded by white berries with hints of blue and green. The fall foliage can pick up hints of rose or gold, but you will be glad that the foliage is deciduous, as the attractive red bark isn’t fully visible until the leaves fall.

Dogwood shrubs are normally planted as nursery-grown container plants or ball-and-burlap specimens in the fall or in the early spring. While many dogwoods are rather slow-growing plants, red twig dogwoods are among the faster-growing types. You can expect the plants to add at least 2 feet of growth each year.

  • Common Names Red-twig dogwood, red osier dogwood, Tatarian dogwood
  • Botanical Name Cornus servicea, Cornus alba, or Cornus sanguinea
  • Family Cornaceae
  • Plant Type Deciduous flowering shrub
  • Mature Size 6–9 feet tall, 8–12 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Type Fertile, moist soil
  • Soil pH 5.5 to 6.6 (slightly acidic)
  • Bloom Time Spring
  • Flower Color White
  • Hardiness Zones 3–8 (USDA)
  • Native Area North America

Red Twig Dogwood Care

Red twig dogwoods have good tolerance for most soil and light conditions, and they’re one of the few shrubs that thrive in boggy conditions. The best color is on new stems, so a systematic routine of removing a few of the oldest stems each year is recommended. If the shrubs spread too much, use a spade to trim the roots around the base of the plant. The plants can periodically be trimmed back all the way to the ground, which will both rejuvenate the plant and control its growth.

Red twig dogwood shrubs should be planted where they can be easily viewed. Grow them against a wall that receives ample sunlight from the south or west in winter for optimal display. On a more practical level, their widely-spreading root systems make them effective plants for erosion control (for example, on steep bankings). They are excellent for moist woodland plantings.

Light: Red twig dogwoods will tolerate partial shade, but the signature red bark will be brightest if they are planted in full sun.

Soil: Red twig dogwood bushes are considered good for areas with consistently moist soil (for example, wet spots where homeowners may wish to establish woodland gardens). Work humus into the soil for nutrients. They prefer somewhat acidic soil.

Water: These plants prefer moist areas, thriving in low spots, or along streams or ponds. If there is not a lot of rain, water new plants weekly for the first few months so the soil is constantly moist. Mature plants only need watering during dry spells when there is no rain for more than a week.

Temperature and Humidity: This shrub has adapted to a wide range of temperatures. It does not do well in extremely hot and humid climates where it can be vulnerable to diseases such as canker.

Fertilizer: This plant has low fertilizing needs. If you do fertilize, do so in the early spring, side-dressing it with compost. When it has started to leaf out, you can feed it fish emulsion, although it will do fine with any additional feeding.