Dogwoods Are Not Just Trees

Often-overlooked Dogwood shrubs will brighten your garden in all seasons

The beloved Dogwood tree, Cornus florida, is our state tree and flower. Its beauty is admired by many for its delicate-looking creamy-white flowers that grace us each spring. However, there are other species of dogwoods that offer spring blossoms and year-round interest that are actually not trees, but shrubs.

Looking to add interest to your garden beds year-round? Then the red twig dogwood shrub, or redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea—previously categorized as Cornus stolinifera), is an option to consider. It offers the same type of flower in May and June as the tree and attracts butterflies and birds during the growing season. At maturity, this shrub can grow six to nine feet tall by eight to twelve feet wide. The branches are generally straight, but do offer some irregularity that provides visual interest. Although this is all noteworthy, the red twig dogwood is more often planted for its fall foliage (red to orange, then to purple) and the striking stem color which provides a beautiful pop of color during the dreary days of the cold months. In the snow, the stems are truly showcased against the white background.

Another dogwood shrub that will supply unique color in your yard is the yellow twig dogwood (Cornus sericea). Yes, it has the same botanical name as the red twig dogwood and has almost the same characteristics, with the exception of the color of the branches, which are yellow instead of red. If the red twig’s mature size seems too big for your space, this may be an alternative as it typically does not grow as large. At maturity, the yellow twig will mature to about five to six feet tall by five to six feet wide. The fall foliage is also very enjoyable and the shrub attracts birds and butterflies in the warmer months, offering year-round interest in your yard.

Overall, both red and yellow twig dogwoods are ideal for use in the home landscape. They can be used as an ornamental (a single feature) in your garden beds, or you can plant in mass quantities to form thickets or naturalize any given area in your yard. In both plants, flowers give way to fruit which birds will enjoy in the summer months.

Ideal locations for either of these shrubs are areas that receive full to partial sun exposure and offers medium to wet soil. So, if you have a persistent wet area in your yard, these shrubs may be an ideal way to assist in soaking up the moistness. Two of the features many homeowners enjoy are that these plants are typically deer-resistant and are adaptable to even our clay soil.

There are even more types of Dogwoods that exist, such as Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ and Cornus racemosa. The Cornus alba is also known as Siberian dogwood and is not native to the U.S. Like the native red twig dogwood, it has red coloring but it offers a variegated leaf that adds interest with a mix of leaf colors.

The gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) is another U.S. native shrub and is excellent for typically wet areas and rain gardens. The flowers are attractive to butterflies and can be used throughout the landscape. This shrub does not provide the winter color that red or yellow twig dogwoods offer, but the fall color is admirable.

By selecting any of these native dogwoods, you are not only planting beneficial plants for the environment, you will help prevent the winter garden blues. Instead, you will have reds and/or yellows, which will be sure to delight your eyes.

Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea

Information from

Common Name: red twig dogwood

Type: deciduous shrub

Family: Cornaceae

Zone: 3 to 8

Height: 6.00 to 9.00 feet

Spread: 8.00 to 12.00 feet

Bloom Time: May to June

Bloom Description: white

Sun: full sun to part shade

Water: medium to wet

Maintenance: medium

Suggested Use: hedge, rain garden

Flower: showy

Leaf: good fall

Attracts: birds, butterflies

Fruit: showy

Other: winter interest

Tolerate: deer, erosion, clay soil, wet soil


Debbie Eisele
About Debbie Eisele 63 Articles
Debbie Eisele is a freelance writer and the Community Outreach Coordinator for Hero’s Bridge, a nonprofit serving older veterans. She lives in Warrenton with her husband and twin daughters.

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