Winter Dogwood Varieties: What Are Good Standout Dogwoods In Snow

By: Teo Spengler

After summer’s vivid blossoms and bright foliage, winter’s landscape can feel a bit somber. There are some varieties of trees and shrubs that can change all that though. One great pick is colorful dogwoods. These trees and shrubs light up your backyard in winter with their vibrant stem color. Read on for our take on standout winter dogwood varieties.

Dogwoods for Winter

It is hard to find more versatile ornamental shrubs and trees than those in the dogwood family. Most flowering dogwoods put on the petal-show in spring, offer bright foliage in summer, and put on a fiery fall show. There are many dogwoods with winter interest as well.

Don’t expect flowers or even foliage from winter dogwood varieties. Instead, dogwoods are attractive in winter because the lack of foliage reveals their attractive trunks and stems. For the best contrast, admire these dogwoods in snow.

Dogwoods in Snow

If you’ve ever seen pictures of dogwoods in snow, you know what an impact these trees can have in a backyard. The top dogwoods with winter interest have twigs or bark in vibrant shades of red, maroon, or yellow and are real standouts in a bare winter landscape.

One to try is Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’). It is a remarkable ornamental, with green shoots all spring and summer long that turn red or yellow in autumn. The color continues to deepen through winter. For red winter stems, try the cultivar ‘Argenteo-marginata’ or ‘Ivory Halo.’ For yellow stems, you’ll like ‘Bud’s Yellow.’ It also offers bright fall foliage color.

Colorful Dogwoods

Some ornamental dogwoods are shrubs, not trees, and they top out about 8 feet (2 m.) tall and wide. They make great hedges that are surprisingly easy to maintain. The best cultivars have stems that are stand-out red or yellow after the leaves fall.

There are more than a few ornamental dogwoods for winter for you to choose from. One popular choice is blood twig dogwood (Cornus Sanguinea ‘Cato’), a dwarf cultivar with yellow stems and crimson tips during winter.
Another is American dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’), a dogwood for winter with year-round interest. Summer’s green foliage turns red in fall, providing an attractive contrast with the white berries. When the leaves fall in winter, the twigs are various shades of red through winter.

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Winter Interest in the Garden

The brilliant foliage displays of autumn can make winter dormancy feel like a bit of a letdown. But winter needn't be a boring time in the garden. In fact, the changing season gives you a chance to appreciate the details in your landscape that you often miss - the form of a beautiful shrub, the delicate variegation on an evergreen, or the playful flutter of birds that would usually be hidden among the foliage.

But if your garden's got the winter "blahs", just a little attention in one of these three areas can bring plenty of excitement and beauty to this coldest season.

If you’re tired of looking at nothing but barren trees and gray patches of snow in your yard each winter, we’ve got the solution. Check out these great winter garden plants. They’ll not only add color and vertical interest to your garden, but some will even bloom outside your window smack dab in the dead of winter.


Like an unexpected gift, some varieties of camellia will surprise you with a showy display of rose-like blossoms in the middle of January. The waxy-petalled flowers linger long on plants, displaying shades of red, pink, coral and white. Evergreen camellias have thick green leaves, will easily grow 10 feet tall, and can live 50-100 years. Once established, camellias are drought-tolerant.

You’ll want to do your homework before buying a camellia, to be sure you’re choosing the hardiest one for your region, and to select types that are winter-blooming. Gardeners can enjoy these rose-like blooms as far north as zone 6. In the coldest zones, select early-flowering types to enjoy a fall and early winter bloom, and spring bloomers for color on the other end of winter. In regions with mild winters, count on camellias to produce blooms from fall to spring.


Traditional evergreens bring reliable color to winter landscapes and make your garden come alive with shapes and forms that add texture. Pine, spruce, fir, juniper, yew and arborvitae withstand even the coldest winters. Along with familiar green hues, look for needled evergreens in shades of blue and gold.

You can also find evergreens in any size — dwarf varieties to suit tine front-door gardens or towering trees for sprawling winter garden landscapes. Evergreen boxwood hedges are another option. Easy to grow and shape, they make terrific borders for paths and garden outlines.

Longing for some hints of summer in the heart of winter? Let the thick, evergreen leaves of sweet box cheer up your yard in all seasons. As a bonus, the shrub produces fragrant, tiny white blossoms in late winter. It’s a perfect planting near entry doors for sweet-smelling comings and goings.

Hollies bring an eye-catching display of evergreen leaves to the winter garden, often punctuated with bright red or gold berries. Most species of holly are either male or female, so you’ll have to pair them up in order to produce berries.

Cotoneaster. Photo by Khutuck via Wikimedia Commons

Cotoneaster is another leafy evergreen that you can depend on for a dazzling berry show in even the most frigid winters. The species can grow up to 15 feet tall, but several hybrid varieties are lower growing.

Their narrow, willow-like foliage turns from dark glossy green to a reddish-purple or bronze in the winter. The plants produce clusters of small white flower that form bright red berries which last well into the winter.

Both holly and cotoneaster should be tucked in front of solid backdrops for the most dramatic effect in your winter garden. Plant in spring or fall.


Winterberry hollies, on the other hand, are deciduous. Winterberry loses its leaves in late fall, leaving behind dazzling sprays of lipstick-red berries that could stop traffic and also attract a variety of birds.

It is a very adaptable shrub and can tolerate poorly drained soils. It does well in drier garden soils as well, growing up to 10 feet tall. Winterberry can tolerate a wide range of sunlight conditions – from sun to shade, although better berries are produced in the sunnier conditions.

Woody Plants

Winter jasmine is another deciduous perennial that produces cheery yellow blossoms in the dead of winter, making it a must for your winter garden. The blooms reach about an inch in size at maturity with vibrant, waxy petals.

Winter jasmine is very hardy. While it prefers full sun and well-drained, fertile soil, it can survive in nearly any soil type or light exposure.

Witch hazel produces clusters of spidery red-and-yellow flowers that blaze like little suns in the midst of your winter garden. The fragrant summer blooms offer shades of yellow or orange, while fall foliage is a striking gold, so this plant is always of seasonal interest. But you’ll want to find the right place in your garden for this sizable shrub, as it can grow up to 15 feet tall and nearly as wide. Plant witch hazel in the fall.

Redtwig dogwood shrubs provide year-round interest, but are especially attractive in winter, when their red twigs are at their brightest. For optimal display, you may want to mass several of them together.

Prune about 1/3 of the older branches every three years or so for maximum color. Redtwig dogwoods work best in wet areas, and while they tolerate partial shade, their signature red bark is brightest when exposed to full sun.

Ornamental Grasses

Tough, upright ornamental grasses, such as mock rush (a member of the fountain grass family) poke through winter’s snows and give your garden lots of visual interest. Its tall flower spikes are full of seeds that attract cardinals, juncos, and other non-migratory birds. Plant this annual in early spring, and use the seeds to start next year’s crop.

Purple millet is another incredibly tough annual grass offers fantastic burgundy foliage and rich purple foliage that look like fuzzy cattails. The plantsare beautiful and attract birds

One of the most popular ornamental grasses, feather reedgrass, has an upright narrow form and arching fronds, growing from two to five in height, depending on variety. The flower spikes generally persist well into winter. Like many grasses, this tough plant is highly tolerant, but prefers medium to moist conditions.

Bulbs and Perennials

Snowdrops, winter aconite and glory-of-the-snow grow from bulbs and return reliably year after year. When most other plants are hiding away from winter’s chill, snowdrop is eager to get going.

As the “snow” in their name suggests, snowdrops may not even wait for the snow to melt before emerging from their winter sleep. Instead, they push right up through the snow, providing a delightful sight for the winter-weary.

Although one of the first late winter bloomers, snowdrops are nevertheless shy, preferring to hide away in rock gardens and under taller shrubs. Plant these bulbs in fall.

Even when the weather is unkind to man and beast, Lenten roses offer leathery evergreen leaves accented with rose-like flowers in lovely shades of pink, red, chartreuse and white. Their blooms last for several weeks, the flower petals hanging on well into spring, even as seed pods start to develop.

These plants self-sow readily, forming low-maintenance colonies which are tolerant of some neglect. Lenten roses thrive in compost-enriched soils that are well drained. But do not try to grow them in heavy clay or very wet soils, as that would ensure certain death for these winter beauties.

Dogwood Leaves

Dogwood leaves turn beautiful reddish color in autumn

Dogwood tree leaves are identified by their elongated oval shape, visible curving veins, and smooth edges. Dogwood leaves are classified as simple tree leaves that grow in an opposite arrangement on stems. However, some species of dogwood have leaves that grow alternately. Dogwood leaves measure 2” to 4” (5 – 10 cm) long, and the elongated rounded form tapers to a point.

Three things you might not know about dogwoods

  • Dogwoods have been used as hedgerow plants since the Tudor period. Any hedgerow with dogwoods growing in it has probably been there for a very long time!
  • Dogwoods are great for wildlife. Birds and small mammals love the berries that appear in late summer.
  • Cut dogwood stems make gorgeous and colourful winter decorations, planted in outdoor pots or arranged in vases.

Add vibrant colour to your garden this winter with a dogwood. You can plant them now in any soil that isn’t waterlogged or frozen, so come down to your local garden centre to see the wide range of dogwoods available.

Watch the video: Flowering Dogwood - Cornus florida - How to grow Dogwood Tree

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