Easy to grow but attractive shrubs are the backbone of every garden, and the Variegated Red Twig Dogwood certainly fits that description. This tough and reliable shrub asks nothing, but it delivers a lot. The leaves have creamy-white margins, adding light and interest to any part of the garden, and in winter the rich red twigs are a real standout against the snow, lifting our spirits as we wait for spring to return. This plant is hardy even in zone 3, and it grows throughout all the milder zones too. Plant it anywhere, alone or in groups, or make an informal screening or boundary with it around your property. It’s the perfect transition from more structured parts of the garden into more natural areas, and its great along streams, around ponds, or at the edge of a lake.
- Rich red winter twigs for seasonal interest
- Leaves have attractive creamy-white edges
- Hardy even in zone 3
- Grows well in wet soil and beside water
- Easy-care plant for every garden
Plant the Variegated Red Twig Dogwood in full sun or light shade, in any ordinary soil that is not too dry. It also thrives in moist and wet soil, growing in boggy areas, such as by water. There it holds the soil and prevents erosion. It is not bothered by pests, diseases, rabbits or even deer, and you can let it grow naturally, or prune it to encourage the maximum number of red winter twigs. For a versatile and very useful shrub in any garden, this is truly a winner on all counts.
The Variegated Red Twig Dogwood brings many attractive features to your garden in every month of the year. All summer long this bushy shrub has attractive green leaves edged in creamy-white, adding sparkle and color to any part of your garden. Then in fall and winter the bare stems glow, with rich red bark that really makes them stand out against snow or evergreens. This tough and reliable plant should be part of the basic structure of every garden, especially in colder areas where choices are more limited. It is also a fantastic choice in wet areas, along streams, or around ponds and lakes, although it grows well in ordinary garden soil too. This plant is hardy even throughout zone 3, where it will brighten the long, snowy winters.
Growing Variegated Red Twig Dogwoods
The Variegated Red Twig Dogwood grows quickly into an upright, multi-stemmed shrub sprouting from the ground, reaching as much as 10 feet tall under ideal conditions, but usually growing closer to 5 feet tall in most gardens. With regular hard pruning it can even be kept shorter. It spreads slowly to a width of about 5 feet, and it is not a wide-spreading or invasive as some other kinds of red-twigged dogwoods are. The bark on younger stems is bright red for the first few years, with a smooth, glossy bark. It gradually turns browner and rougher as the stems thicken and mature, so that the brightest twigs are always the youngest ones.
This deciduous shrub has long oval leaves, about 4½ inches long, with a smooth edge and a tapering tip. The color is an interesting soft slightly grayish green, and around the edge of the leaf is a broad margin of creamy-white, making a beautiful contrast to the rest of the leaf. This margin varies in width, and it sometimes breaks a little into blotches, making each leaf slightly different to the others. The overall effect is bright and colorful, much more interesting that a plain green shrub would be. In late spring small clusters of greenish-white flowers will be found nestling among the leaves at the ends of the stems, and by mid-summer these develop into striking bunches of berries, in a unique and beautiful shade of porcelain blue, that is both distinctive and unusual. These are popular with wild birds, so unfortunately do not often last long on the plants.
Uses on Your Property
Use the Variegated Red Twig Dogwood among other medium-sized shrubs in a mixed border planting. Use it alone, or in groups to form an interesting background planting. Plant a row to separate one part of the garden from another, or to edge a wooded area from the more formal parts of your property. Use it along streams and water-ways to stabilize the soil and add multi-seasonal interest. This versatile shrub has so many uses around the garden there is always a spot to plant it in, so you can enjoy its foliage and especially the winter twigs, which are a stand-out feature. For a wonderful effect, plant alongside the Yellow Twig Dogwood, where the two twig colors will contrast beautifully, each one enhancing the other.
Grow the Variegated Red Twig Dogwood in full sun or partial shade, anywhere in your garden. It will grow in any ordinary garden soil that is not too dry, and this plant is a great choice for those difficult wet areas of a garden, where it thrives where many other plants fail. It will grow in wet soil and even in soil that has a couple of inches of water over it, so it is perfect to plant along streams, around ponds, or at the edges of a lake. The root system and branches also help prevent soil erosion, and for wet spots this plant can’t be beaten. It has few important pests or diseases and it not bothered by deer or rabbits, making it a great plant for the cottage or natural garden.
Care and Maintenance
You can let your Variegated Red Twig Dogwood simply grow, and in time it can reach 10 feet tall, with strong stems and many red young branches. To keep it smaller, and develop more red branches, pruning is recommended. This can be done in several ways. One way is to take about ¼ of the branches away each year, cutting the oldest ones right to the ground, and shortening back the tallest of the remaining ones. Another way is to cut the plant right to the ground every 2 or 3 years, so that it sends up many bright red stems 2 to 4 feet long. This is a great technique in a smaller garden, to reduce the size and emphasize the winter color. In the coldest areas this hard pruning may weaken the plant over time, so it works best in warmer areas with a longer growing season.
History and Origins of the Variegated Red Twig Dogwood
This plant is similar in appearance to the American native red-twig dogwood, Cornus sericea, but in fact it comes from Central Asia and China. It was introduced into Western Europe from Siberia as early as 1741, but we don’t know where the variegated form arose, although by 1900 it was already winning awards at garden shows. The main difference from the American plant is the blue, instead of white, berries, and of course the name, Cornus alba, the Tartarian dogwood.