Cornus sanguinea 'Cato' ARCTIC SUN
Common Name: bloodtwig dogwood
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Cornaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion


Best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of a wide range of soils. Prefers consistently moist, well-drained soils. Best 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 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. Remove root suckers if desired to prevent colonial spread.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus sanguinea, commonly known as blood twig dogwood, European dogwood or common dogwood, is an upright, round-topped, spreading, twiggy, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that typically matures to 8-15’ tall and as wide. It is native to northern Europe and northwestern Asia. Simple broad-elliptic to ovate leaves (to 2-4” long and to 1 3/4” wide) are dark green above and villous on both sides. Dull white flowers with a fetid fragrance bloom in loose clusters (pubescent cymes to 2” diameter) in May to early June. Flowers are followed by blue-black fruit (drupes to 1/ 4” across) which mature in August-September. Fruit is not particularly showy. Fall color can be a stunning red-purple, but often falls short of this mark by appearing greenish-purple. Stem is slender, hairy usually purple or dark blood red but often greenish on the lower side. Older branches are greenish gray.

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.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word sanguineus meaning blood red in reference to both the red fall foliage color and the reddish twigs and young stems of this shrub.

Blood twig dogwood is a misleading common name for this species. New twigs and young stems have red color, but by and large the mature stems on this plant are greenish-gray. Considerable variation in stem color. Blood twig common name may have been given to this species in regard to fall color rather than young stems.

'Cato', commonly sold as ARCTIC SUN, is a dwarf blood twig dogwood cultivar that is primarily grown for its bright yellow winter stems with crimson tips which are particularly showy against a snowy backdrop. It typically grows to 3-4’ tall and as wide with dense stems. Tiny white flowers appear in flat-topped clusters (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 late summer. Fruit is quite attractive to birds and is generally considered to have as much if not more ornamental interest than the flowers. However, it is the yellow winter stems that really distinguish this shrub. Although C. sanguinea plants are generally given the common name of blood twig dogwood, ARCTIC SUN is sometimes commonly called yellow twig dogwood because of its winter stems. Ovate to lanceolate, dark green leaves (2-4” long). Leaves turn golden yellow in autumn. U. S. Plant Patent PP19,892 was issued April 7, 2009.


No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Excellent dwarf selection for smaller gardens. Mass in areas where the yellow stems in winter can be enjoyed. Effective in shrub borders where plants can be combined with evergreens or red twig dogwoods (e.g., see Cornus sericea ‘Farrow’ ARCTIC FIRE) for interesting winter contrast.