red twig dogwood
In the Garden

Must-Have Plant of the Month: Red Twig Dogwood

plant of the month

My kids frequently ask me what my favorite color is. Because they ask so often, I wonder if it’s supposed to change. Usually I say blue, but switch to green if they seem disappointed that it’s “still” blue. I’ve been answering this question so long that I don’t really think about it anymore. But as I thought about my favorite plants to pick a plant of the month, I realized something. I have no idea how I overlooked it before: I love red. I’m obsessed with red actually. Our house is white and I have wanted a red door forever. Our new barn is red. I wear red a lot. If I’m growing flowers for myself, they’re red. Our dining room is red. Our outdoor furniture is red. I’ve loved red things since I was a kid. The next time my 7-year-old is surveying everyone’s favorite colors, I am going to have a new answer.

red twig dogwoodThis time of year the landscape is blah, so I think everyone can appreciate the Red Twig Dogwood that is a favorite of mine year round. In winter the leaves have dropped so you see the beautiful fiery twigs against the white snow or the brown bleakness if you live in a snowless area.

Red Twig Dogwood, cornus sericea, is a deciduous shrub native to the northern United States and Canada. They are not trees like other cornus family members. The shrub is very attractive year round, producing off-white flowers in spring and berries that are green and turn white by the end of the summer. In the fall the leaves turn a reddish orange. In the wild, the red twig dogwood grows naturally in areas with wet or boggy soils. It produces an excellent root system so it does a great job retaining soil on the banks of rivers or ponds. Just keep them away from your septic system for this reason. red twig dogwood

The shrub can grow 6 to 12 feet tall and spread up to 10 feet. Red twig dogwoods prefer sun or part shade. They are a good choice in the garden as a border or as a contrast against evergreens. Plant them with yellow twig dogwoods for a bold winter statement! Gardeners often trim the older stems (and use in holiday displays) to promote new growth with brighter color. Deer typically are not interested in red twig dogwoods, but birds and butterflies are, so double good news! The red twig dogwood is a shrub you can enjoy year round.

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