Dogwood shrubs let you enjoy many of the characteristics of dogwood trees on a smaller scale. Several species native to North American produce flowers for local pollinators and berries for wildlife. Shrub dogwoods range from red osier and tatarian dogwood (the winter superstars that sport brightly colored stems) to silky dogwood and kousa dogwood that are grown for their striking flowers and outstanding fall color. Add dogwood shrubs to a mixed shrub border or a perennial planting.
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Dogwood Shrub Care Must-Knows
Grow dogwood shrubs in full sun or part shade and moist soil. Many dogwood shrubs grow well in soil that is wet for short periods during the growing season, which makes them suitable for rain gardens and low spots in the landscape. Silky and red osier dogwoods are especially tolerant of consistently moist soil. When purchasing plants, read the plant tag to ensure your growing location matches the plant's moisture requirements.
Plant dogwood shrubs in spring or early summer. Water the shrubs well after planting and spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the root zone to prevent soil-moisture loss. Water plants regularly during the first growing season to promote a strong root system.
Dogwood shrubs don't require frequent pruning, but you can intensify winter stem color by removing older canes regularly. That's because young woody stems produce bright red, yellow, or orange-red winter color. In early spring cut back about one-third of the oldest, most faded stems. Remove damaged or dead stems at the same time. Each subsequent spring cut back another third of the stems. When the pruned dogwood shrub emerges from dormancy in the spring, you'll see an increased number of colorful stems appearing as a result.
More Varieties of Dogwood Shrub
'Elegantissima' red twig dogwood
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' features gray-green leaves edged in white open on red stems. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 2-8
'Golden Shadows' pagoda dogwood
This variety of Cornus alternifolia offers gold-edge leaves. It bears white springtime flowers and purple fruits in summer and fall. It prefers shade and grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8
Cornus racemosa is an upright North American native shrub with reddish-brown bark that matures to gray. The white spring flowers are followed by white fruit in summer. It grows 10-15 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8
Variegated red twig dogwood
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' has variegated leaves, white berries, stunning fall color, and showy red stems in winter. Zones 2–8
'Ivory Halo' red twig dogwood
This Cornus alba selection is a compact shrub featuring white-edge medium green leaves and bright red twigs. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-7
'Isanti' Red Osier dogwood
Cornus sericea 'Isanti' forms a dense, compact shrub of red stems. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 2-8