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Blood-twigged dogwood

Winter form of the 'Midwinter Fire' cultivar of blood-twigged dogwood.

Blood-twigged dogwood is a medium-sized shrub, popular mainly for its straight stems and branches, which turn a mix of green and red in winter. It has flat-topped fluffy clusters of white flowers, more smelly than fragrant, in late summer, followed by small black fruit.  Blood-twigged dogwood tends to form suckering colonies, so it should be used only where there is ample space. The best red bark color is on new wood, so regular pruning is required to keep up the winter interest. Cultivated varieties are more popular than the straight species.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Cornus sanguinea

All common names:

Blood-twigged dogwood, common dogwood, dogberry, European dogwood, bloodtwig dogwood

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Screen

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Thicket-forming,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size and Form

6 to 15 feet high and wide with an upright to irregular form, often colony-forming.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun to part shade.
Tolerates alkaline soil better than other dogwoods.
Prune regularly to keep in bounds.
Best color is on new wood so prune out oldest stems each winter.

Diseases, Pests & Problems

None serious, although stem cankers can occur on older stems if they are not pruned out regularly.

Native Geographic Location and Habitat

Native to Europe and central Asia.  Found in riversides, shady areas, ravines, and forest margins.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Fruit attracts birds.

Bark color and texture 

Smooth, red to green. Color is better on cultivars.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite, green oval leaves turn burgundy to yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flat-topped fluffy clusters of white flowers in late summer; mildly unpleasant smelling.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Black berries (drupes)  in fall are often hidden by leaves but attract birds.

Cultivars and their differences 

Artic Sun blood-twigged dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Cato'):  3 to 4 feet high and wide; dark red winter stems with orange-red tips

Midwinter Fire blood-twigged dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'):  5 to 6 feet high; winter stems red at base and change to yellow and orange on upper portion; purplish fall color; 5 to 6 feet high
Winter Flame blood-twigged dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame'): 8 to 10 feet high; brightly colored red, orange and red winter stems.

Location of Cornus sanguinea (Blood-twigged dogwood) at the Arboretum