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Red-osier dogwood is a large, 7 to 9 foot, erect shrub best used in front of evergreens that will show off the dark red winter stems. Besides attractive, red stems in the winter, red-osier dogwood has yellowish-white flowers that appear in late May to early June, and bluish-white fruit borne in late summer. Fall color is reddish-purple. This species was formerly known as Cornus stolonifera. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Dogwood
  • Family (botanic) Cornaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Arching, Multi-stemmed, Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Fast

Size and Form: 

Red-osier dogwood is a large to medium, upright shrub reaching 7 to 10 feet high and wide.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

C-Value: 1. Found throughout much of North America. Common in wet sites.

Attracts birds & butterflies: 

Over 98 species of birds, including flicker, tanager, woodpeckers, and catbird are attracted to the plant’s fruit and use the plant as shelter.

Bark color and texture: 

Young stems turn an attractive red in the winter.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

The opposite, simple leaves are 2 to 5 inches long and oblong to ovate. They are medium green, lighter underneath, changing to reddish-purple fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

1 1/2 to 2 inch flat-topped clusters of white flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Bluish-white fruit (drupe) ripens in late summer.

Plant care:

For best flowering and winter color, grow in full sun. Red-osier dogwood is tolerant of shade conditions and very adaptable to soil conditions, including wet soils.  This dogwood will form thickets. If left unpruned, plants reach 7 to 9 feet high and 10 feet wide. This plant thrives in moist sites along ponds or river banks. To retain stems with good red color, remove a few of the oldest stems to the ground every spring.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Stem canker is common on this species, and leaf spots are common.

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Bergeson’s Compact red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea ‘Bergeson’s Compact’):

This cultivar has a compact habit reaching 4 to 6 feet high and has good fall color and red winter stems.

Budd’s Yellow red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea ‘Budd’s Yellow):

A 6 to 8 foot high and 5-6 foot wide, rounded shrub with bright yellow stems.

Cardinal red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea ‘Cardinal’):

8 to 10 feet high and wide;  spreading form with orange-red fall color and cherry-red winter stems; resistant to leaf spots.

Pucker Up! red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea ‘Neil Z’):

A 3 to 4 foot high and wide, upright shrub with glossy, puckered leaves and red twigs.

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