How To Grow Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba) In Your Garden

Cornus alba, often known as Red Twig Dogwood, but perhaps more correctly as Tatarian Dogwood (to stop confusion with Cornus sanguinea and Cornus serice), is a multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub.

This shrub is renowned for its bright red winter stems, variegated leaves, and clusters of white flowers in spring. It typically reaches a height of 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m), and has a similar spread.

Cornus alba cv. 'Kesselringii'
Cornus alba cv. 'Kesselringii' photograph by peganum; CC.

This plant has four-season appeal: flowers in spring, berries in summer, colorful foliage in fall, and vibrant stems in winter. This makes it a favorite among gardeners.

Plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 8, and is thus hardy in the UK and Europe down to -15°C (RHS H5).

How to Grow Cornus alba in the Garden

Cornus alba is quite adaptable and grows well in full sun to partial shade.

It is able to tolerate a variety of soil types, including loamy, clay, and sandy soils, so long as they are well-drained. The soil pH is fine from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline.

Planting can be carried out in spring or fall. Prepare a hole twice as wide, and at about the same depth as the root ball. Once dug, place the shrub in the hole, backfill with soil, and give it a good watering.

Red Twig Dogwood
Red Twig Dogwood image by Klaus Berdiin Jensen; CC.

Red Twig Dogwood appreciates regular watering, especially during the first growing season. this will help establish an extensive root system.

Once established, it is relatively drought-tolerant. That said, it will still benefit from watering during prolonged dry spells.

Ideally, a balanced fertilizer should be applied in spring to promote growth.

To maintain its vibrant winter color, prune Cornus alba in late winter or early spring. Cut back to a set of strong buds. This will promote the growth of new stems; these will show color in the following winter.

Be on the watch for common pests like dogwood sawfly, and diseases such as dogwood anthracnose and leaf spot. Good care will help to keep the plant healthy.

Cornus alba provides year-round interest in your garden with its dynamic color palette and attractive features, making it an excellent addition to any landscape garden.

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' leaves image by Elsa Spezio; CC.

Quick Cornus alba Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Cornus alba.

Common Name(s): Red-barked Dogwood, Tatarian Dogwood, White Dogwood, Siberian Dogwood.

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 2-8.

Best Used For / Garden Location: Shrub borders, winter interest, mass planting.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous.

Plant Height: 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m).

Plant Spread: 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m).

Blooms: Late spring to early summer.

Flower Details: Small, white flowers in clusters.

Leaf Foliage: Green, turning reddish-purple in fall.

Fruit: White or bluish berries.

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Full sun to part shade.

Suitable Soil Types: Well-drained soils; can tolerate a variety of soil conditions.

Sowing / planting: Plant young shrubs in spring or fall.

Germination time: Not applicable for shrubs.

Propagation: Hardwood cuttings in late winter.

Plant Care: Water regularly; prune in early spring to encourage bright red new growth.

Growing in pots and containers: Suitable for large pots with good drainage.

Growing as a Houseplant: Not typically suitable as an indoor plant due to size and sunlight requirements.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Attractive to birds. Not known to be invasive.

Pests and diseases: Generally pest-free. Possible issues include dogwood borer and dogwood sawfly.

Common Cultivars / Varieties: Cornus alba 'Sibirica' has bright red winter stems, Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' has variegated leaves and red winter stems.

Family: Cornaceae, the Dogwood family.

Native: Native to Siberia, Northern China, and Korea.

References and Further Reading: Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder; OSU Landscape Flowers; NCS Extension.

Common Questions

Does Cornus alba make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Cornus alba is a superb choice for gardens and landscapes. Its bright red winter stems and variegated leaves help to add year-round visual interest.

Is Red-barked Dogwood fragrant?

Red-barked Dogwood is not widely known for its fragrance. Its main attractions are the vividly colored stems and the attractive variegated foliage.

What is the perfect location to grow Cornus alba?

Cornus alba is adaptable, and grows well in full sun to part shade. It is tolerant of a range of soil conditions, but prefers a moist, well-drained soil.

Is Cornus alba invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Cornus alba is not currently considered invasive in the US.

How do I remove Cornus alba from my garden?

Cornus alba can be removed by cutting it down to ground level and then digging out the root system. Keep an eye out for any regrowth from any remaining roots. Promptly remove any new shoots.


Red-barked Dogwood is a fast-growing, deciduous shrub known for its striking red stems in winter. It thrives in a range of conditions, from full sun to part shade, in well-drained soil, and requires minimal maintenance.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide on how to grow Cornus alba. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Flowering Dogwood, Cornus kousa, and Tree of heaven plants in the garden.