Best grown in organically rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of a wide range of soils, including swampy or boggy conditions. Prefers consistently moist, well-drained soils. Best red stem color occurs on young stems. Although pruning is not required, many gardeners choose to remove 20-25% of the oldest stems in early spring of each year to stimulate growth of new stems which will display the best yellow color. As an alternative to annual pruning, some gardeners prune all stems close to the ground in early spring every 2-3 years to renew. Any loss of flowers through spring pruning is not terribly significant since the small flowers of this dogwood are rather ordinary. Plants may become stressed and more vulnerable to diseases such as canker in hot summer climates south of USDA Zone 7.
Cornus sericea, commonly known as red twig dogwood or red osier dogwood, is an upright-spreading, suckering shrub that typically grows in the absence of pruning to 6-9’ tall with a slightly larger spread. With the exception of the lower midwest and deep South, this species is native to much of North America where it is typically found growing in wet swampy areas, wetland margins or along lakes and rivers. Ovate to lanceolate, medium to dark green leaves (2-5” long) acquire interesting shades of red to orange eventually fading to purple in autumn. Reddish stems turn bright red in winter and are particularly showy against a snowy backdrop. Tiny, fragrant, white flowers appear in flat-topped clusters (cymes to 2.5” diameter) in late spring, with sparse, intermittent, additional flowering sometimes continuing into summer. Flowers give way to clusters of whitish (sometimes with a bluish tinge) drupes in summer. Fruit is quite attractive to birds and is generally considered to have as much if not more ornamental interest than the flowers.
Synonymous with and formerly known as Cornus stolonifera.
Genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn in probable reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry (Cornus mas).
Specific epithet from Latin means silky in reference to the hairs present on young twigs and upper leaf surfaces.
Red stems somewhat resemble the reddish stems of some osier willows, hence the common name of red osier dogwood. Some cultivars of this species (e.g., C. sericea 'Flaviramia') have yellow stems.
'Farrow', commonly sold as ARCTIC FIRE, is a dwarf redtwig dogwood cultivar that is primarily grown for its bright red winter stems. It typically grows to 3-4’ tall and as wide with dense stems. It lacks the stoloniferous, spreading habit of the species. U. S. Plant Patent Applied For (PPAF).
No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to leaf and twig blights. Scale, bagworms and leaf miner are occasional insect pests.
Excellent dwarf selection for smaller gardens. Mass in areas where the red stems in winter can be enjoyed. Effective in shrub borders where plants can be combined with evergreens or yellow twig dogwoods (e.g., Cornus sericea ‘Cato’ ARCTIC SUN) for interesting winter contrast.