January: Red Twig Dogwood

January isn't the most exciting month in the garden. The trees are bare, soon the snow will melt an leave the ground grey again, and all the cheerful Christmas decorations are coming down. But there are still plants with winter interest that will add little bits of excitement to the garden until spring comes again. One of those plants is red twig dogwood.

Red twig dogwood (scientific name Cornus sericea) is a deciduous shrub related to the flowering dogwood trees we all love so much in the spring. In the winter, its brilliant red branches provide a much-needed pop of color. We also love red twig dogwood because it's native to central Indiana. Native plants attract beneficial wildlife, and they tend to be very low maintenance. The late spring flowers attract butterflies, and birds love the late summer berries.

Common Names: Red Twig Dogwood, Redtwig Dogwood, Red-Osier Dogwood

Scientific Name: Cornus sericea

Popular Varieties: 'Cardinal', 'Baileyi', 'Flaviramea' (this one has yellow twigs instead of red)

Size: 6'-10' tall, spreads by suckers to 6'-10' wide, but can be maintained smaller

Soil: medium to wet, tolerates heavy clay soil or boggy conditions

Blooms: white, May-June, attract butterflies

Fruit: showy fruit in late summer attracts birds

Other Notes: Red twig dogwood has a brilliant red fall color along with its red winter interest, so it's truly a four-season plant.  Because of its tolerance of wet soils, it's a great shrub for a Midwestern rain garden. Maintain the bright red twig coloration by cutting back old stems as the bark turns brown. If you are cutting back, the mature size will stay closer to 3'-4' tall instead of 6' or more.

See other plants of the month.

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