Cornus sanguinea 'Compressa'
Common Name: bloodtwig dogwood 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Cornaceae
Zone: 4 to 7
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
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 cornus meaning "horn", possibly in reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). May also be related to the Greek kerasos meaning "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.

‘Compressa’ is a compact, upright cultivar with a narrow columnar habit that typically matures to 3-4’ tall with a spread to only 1’ wide. Closely grouped vertical stems are densely clad on shortened internodes with tiny, thick, wrinkled, deeply-veined, glossy dark green leaves (each leaf to only 1 1/2” long). Leaves turn a respectable burgundy red in fall. Leaves fall to the ground in winter revealing underlying red young stems and twigs which provide ornamentally attractive winter interest. Infrequently produces flowers and fruit.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Shrub border. Screen. Mass in areas where the ornamental qualities of the reddish-colored new-growth twigs can be enjoyed.

‘Compressa’ only grows to 1’ wide and can be easily fit into small spaces. Interesting specimen which features a columnar shape, unusual rugose foliage, quality red fall foliage color, and red stems in winter.