Flowering plants are nearly impossible to come by in November, and leafy ones are all but spent, with just a few withered yellow or brown stalwarts hanging on for dear life. As autumn wears on, most gardeners are calling it a season and putting their planting beds to rest — but you don’t have to. A red twig dogwood is just the thing to brighten the late fall landscape with a shot of color when you need it most.
Unlike classic dogwood trees that put on their best show with large blooms in early spring, the red twig dogwood has smaller flowers but gorgeous, bright-red branches that look great all year long.
Red Twig Dogwood Basics
Growing Zones: 2-8
Bloom Time: Flowers in late spring; bright red branches all year long
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Mature Size: Up to 9 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter
Notes: Red twig dogwoods form a vase-like shrub shape with an upright branching habit. Several tiny, white flowers form small florets in spring and are replace by small blue berries in summer. Green leaves turn red and are shed in autumn to reveal bright red branches for winter interest.
Growing Red Twig Dogwood in the Landscape
Red twig dogwoods can be planted alone as a specimen within a flower bed or foundation planting, or you can plant them in a hedge for major winter impact. Consider planting them in a spot where you can enjoy them from your windows in the winter. Although they tolerate partial shade, their bark color will be best when planted in full sun.
Planting Red Twig Dogwoods
To plant your red twig dogwood, dig a hole four times as wide and twice as deep as the root ball of your plant. Add compost to the hole and place your plant in it, adding back soil and compost until your dogwood sits at the same level it did in the pot. Backfill your hole with a 50/50 mixture of soil and compost, and press the soil firmly over the root ball.
Water your plant sufficiently and add a layer of mulch to create a well. Red twig dogwoods need steady moisture throughout the growing season, especially as they get established. If you create a raised ring of mulch around your plant, the water will be less likely to run off throughout the season. Your red twig dogwood will need to be watered weekly during its first season, and every other day in extreme warm or dry periods. These plants prefer wet conditions, so an inch of rain per week is the minimum requirement as it gets established.
Ongoing Care for Red Twig Dogwoods
To encourage healthy growth, fertilize your red twig dogwood each spring with a general-purpose garden fertilizer, following the directions on the package for trees and shrubs. You can also fertilize again in the fall with a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants, though this is optional if your plants appear to be thriving without too much help.
Because the best color appears on the newest branches, pruning is an important part of maintaining your red twig dogwood. Every two to three years, use a bypass pruner to cut out the oldest, dullest branches. This will encourage new growth and make room for more vibrant branches by the time fall rolls around again.
Red twig dogwoods are occasionally bothered by aphids, which suck the sap from the plant’s branches. Though it’s unlikely that aphids will destroy your plant, they can weaken it, particular in a season of drought. Spraying the branches with an insecticidal soap will help control aphids and make sure that your red twig dogwood is ready for its close-up next November.