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. 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 red 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.
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.
'Baileyi' is a redtwig dogwood cultivar. It is a rapid-growing, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub which grows to a maximum size of 6-10' tall with a loose, rounded habit. It lacks the stoloniferous, spreading habit of the species and is listed in Hortus Third as Cornus sericea forma baileyi. Some nurseries sell the plant as Cornus baileyi. The outstanding ornamental feature of this plant is its bright red winter stems. Leaves (2-4" long) have curling hairs underneath.
Susceptible to leaf and twig blights. Scale, leaf miners and bagworms are occasional insect pests.
Effective in naturalistic plantings in moist soils where plants are allowed to spread and form thickets. Also effective as property line screens. Plants perform very well in wet locations along streams or ponds where spreading roots help combat soil erosion. Also effective in shrub borders where plants can be combined with yellowtwig dogwoods (e.g., Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea') for an interesting bicolor winter stem display.