Plant of the Month October | Cornus

Cornus | Dogwood

Cornus, commonly known as the dogwoods, is a wide-ranging genus which includes flowering trees, colourful shrubs and ground cover plants. The flowering dogwoods are stunning in April and May and often take pride of place in Hillier Chelsea exhibits. In autumn, the shrubby dogwoods come into their own with striking bright stems as the foliage falls. 

There are a number of fantastic varieties of Cornus with stems in tones of red, orange and yellow to bring a shot of colour to the autumn and winter garden. For the best colour stems, prune back hard each year in early spring to about a foot from the ground. This will encourage new shoots which will grow to around three feet over the course of the spring and summer and give the best autumn colour. If left unpruned, these types of Cornus will reach seven to eight feet high, but the older wood will not have the same intense shades come winter.


Cornus Varieties

There are a great number of varieties of cornus available. These are a selection of our favourites, from our Hampshire Nurseries. 

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

A hardy, deciduous shrub. C. 'Midwinter Fire' produces yellow-orange juvenile shoots with mid-green leaves, turning red in autumn. The stems age to a beautiful deep orange. It produces white flowers in summer, followed by blue-black fruit in autumn. This is a low maintenance plant, easy to grow in mixed beds and borders.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any good, well-drained soil

Hardiness: Fully hardy in all of the UK

Size: Grows to 2.5m x 2.5m


Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’

This hardy, deciduous shrub has red stems that hold variegated, green and cream leaves which turn red in autumn before falling. Cream flowerheads are produced in summer, followed by berries in autumn. This is a low maintenance and easy to grow addition to mixed beds and borders.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

SoilAny good, well-drained soil

Hardiness: Fully hardy in all of the UK

Size: Grows to 2.5m x 2.5m


Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’

A hardy, deciduous shrub grown for its colourful stems in autumn and winter. It has bright orange-yellow stems, tipped scarlet, which hold dark green leaves that turn burgundy-red in autumn. Clusters of small white flowers are produced in late spring. Low maintenance and easy to grow in mixed beds and borders.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any good, well-drained soil

Hardiness: Fully hardy in all of the UK

Size: Grows to 2.7m x 2.4m


Cornus sericea ‘Bud’s Yellow’

This Cornus variety produces green leaves, which turn bright red in autumn. It has distinctive yellow stems and bears white flowers in spring followed by white berries in autumn. This is another low maintenance variety.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any good, well-drained soil

Hardiness: Fully hardy in all of the UK

Size: Grows to 2.5m x 4m


Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’

A slightly smaller Cornus variety, C. ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ has bright orange-red stems. These are covered by mid-green leaves in spring-summer, which turn red in autumn and ultimately fall. Dense clusters of white flowers in summer are followed by blue-black fruit in autumn.  This is a wonderful, low-maintenance plant.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any good, well-drained soil

Hardiness: Fully hardy in all of the UK

Size: Grows to 1.2m x 0.9m


Cornus Growing Guide


Pruning

Cut back hard every other year for best stem colour. This can be done in early spring – late March to mid-April – to give more opportunity to enjoy the winter growth.

Watering

Keep well watered until fully established – the first two to five years after planting.


Cornus Planting Ideas

The bright stems of Cornus look particularly striking when planted en masse. Try underplanting with the distinctive black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ for a real pop of colour at a time when most of the garden is not at its best.


Cornus Fact

Because Cornus wood is very hard, it was used historically for items like arrows. One theory suggests that this is the origin of the name ‘dogwood’, deriving from ‘dagwood’ (dag meaning dagger, arrow etc.)