The Complete Guide for Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood (Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’) Care

The Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood, otherwise known as the Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ or Red Osier Dogwood, Red-Osier Dogwood, RedOsier Dogwood, Red Willow, Redstem Dogwood, Redtwig Dogwood, Red-Rood, American Dogwood, Creek Dogwood, Western Dogwood, Cornus stolonifera, Swida sericea, is a somewhat well known shrub plant native to the Northeast, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and the Southwest of the United States.

Best known for its low maintenance and moderate growth, this shrub will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its green colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

This is why all the topics you need to know in order to achieve this will be covered in this Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood Care Guide. Ready? Let’s go!

In order to take proper care of your Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood you’ll need to keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Water: The Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood needs evenly spread moist soil – try to avoid letting the soil dry out.
  • Light: Keep your Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ in an environment where it can receive partial to full sun on a daily basis. 
  • Soil: Make sure to keep the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood in soil with moist but well-draining to well draining properties, so ideally, one that is made of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

And as with many other plants, these are the only three care factors you need to remember to make sure your Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood is, for the most part, healthy and well to survive.

Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood plants

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood belongs to the Cornaceae family, the genus Cornus and the species Sericea, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ (KOR-nus ser-E-se-a).

As with other Cornus’s, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood is a deciduous plant, which means it will shed its leaves annually once autumn comes.

Growing Region

The Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood is a plant native to the North America. This is why the Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ is used to growing in specific regions such as the states in Northeast, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and the Southwest of the United States.

You might be wondering why your Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood’s native region is important. Well, if you know where your plant originally came from, you’ll know which environment conditions it prefers, and with it, knowledge on how to replicate it at home.

With this in mind, the Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ will be most used to the heat zones in the 1 – 8 region, as the plant hardiness level falls between 2a, 2b, 3b, 3a, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a and the ideal climate zone is between 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A2, A3.

Growth and Size


In terms of size and growth, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.


But what exactly does this mean for your Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood? How large a pot should you consider, how tall, how wide can it get? Let’s jump in…

The Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ can grow up to 6′ – 9′ (180cm – 270cm) in 6′ – 9′ (180cm – 270cm) and 8′ – 12′ (240cm – 3.6m) in 8′ – 12′ (240cm – 3.6m). 

These dimensions make the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood a relatively large shrub compared to others, so it’s best to keep this fact in mind since it will affect where you want to keep yours at home.

Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful rounded, and spreading shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.

This is why experts recommend keeping an area of approximately 96″ – 144″ (240cm – 360cm) free so the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood can spread to its best extent.


In terms of watering, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood is a fairly complicated plant to take care of.

This is mostly because it has a not so straightforward watering schedule and somewhat irregular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ needs evenly spread moist soil – try to avoid letting the soil dry out.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood care


As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood in soil with moist but well-draining to well draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

When you consider this, this is why you should aim to choose soil that has good drainage, moist, occasionally dry, and occasionally wet properties to keep the right moisture levels at all times. 

In our experience, the famous ‘thumb’ or ‘finger’ test is what works best for the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood since with it, you will be able to give it the right amount of water, every time – regardless of the environment or placement where you do decide to keep it.

Soil Mix

As mentioned earlier, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood prefers to have soil with good drainage, moist, occasionally dry, and occasionally wet properties at all times, reason why you need to make the soil mix out of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably alkaline, acid or neutral soil.

Light and Exposure

In terms of light & exposure, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood requires partial to full sun in order for it to thrive under the right conditions. 

Most experts agree that this shrub will do well as long as you keep it in partial to full sun, and it will be able to grow properly.

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ in little to partial shade (only 2-6 hours of direct sunlight a day), to full and direct sun (more 6 hours of direct sunlight per day).


Being a deciduous plant, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood will shed its leaves annually once autumn comes.

But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the spring (early, mid, late), the summer (early, mid, late), the fall, and during the winter.


You can expect your Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood to flower around the spring and in the summer months from April to June (spring), and from July to September (summer).

In particular, this shrub is well known for its showy flowers around the plant enthusiast community.

The Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood produces some beautiful white, or green, cream/tangold/yellow, and white flowers around this time of year.


The leaves from the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood have a beautiful green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a simple arrangement with a opposite organization in its leaves.

You can expect the leaves from your Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ to be around (3-6 inches) in size.

Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood up close

Attracts, Tolerance and Resistance

The Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood is well known for being able to attract butterflies and birds, so keep that in mind when choosing your plant, as you’ll likely end up finding one or another in your garden.

Additionally, it has a special tolerance for clay soil, wet soil and animals like deer, so don’t worry if any of these come along, your Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ will be fine.


How should you then organize your garden to include your new Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood? Here are some recommendations by expert gardeners.

Most Cornus Sericea ‘Cardinal’ owners agree that this shrub will look great in most rustic gardens of all types. 

Other owners consider that they complement well most gardens of prairie and meadow, city and courtyard, informal and cottage, and in traditional garden styles. 

In particular, the Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood’s best location within your garden is in hedges and screens, banks and slopes, beds and borders, and in ponds and streams, others use it for landscaping in a very wet areas, privacy screen, cutting garden, barrier, erosion control, mass planting, or a woodland garden.


So that’s it! These are the main plant care requirements that you need to keep in mind in order to have a healthy Cardinal Red-Twig Dogwood in your garden or home.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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