There’s nothing better for a gardener at this time of year than to see color in their winter landscape. Yellows and reds can highlight the browns and greys of winter. One of the best Colorado native shrubs you can have in your landscape is Red Twig Dogwood, or Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus servicea). This plant also is lovely in other seasons, but is a real standout in winter with its red bark. For that reason, it should be planted where you’ll have a good view of it in winter.
But, there is a drawback. This plant likes water. So, plant it where you have other water-loving plants, like near your vegetable garden, or that teeny tiny patch of grass you still have that needs water. In the wild, you will find this shrub at the edges of water bodies.
The flowers in the spring are white, but not that showy. The flowers appear in June and the white berries shortly after (we’ve heard that birds find the berries enjoyable, though haven’t seen it in practice). Other than its water requirements, this is not a fussy plant. It will do well in most soils and although it does not need regular maintenance, the newer branches are a showier red, so it’s advantageous to prune the older branches out. It can get fairly large – 6-8 feet tall, and 6-12 feet wide, and is hardy up to 10,000 feet in elevation. It is also a good plant for wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder* says that this plant supports 58 species of butterflies and moths. That’s a very large number. For comparison, a common native sage supports 9, and a sumac (Rhus), 20.
*This finder lists the native forbs, trees and bushes in your zip code, and how many moth and butterfly species it supports. It’s an invaluable tool.
Curious to learn more about transforming your garden into a habitat with Colorado native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees? Check out our native gardening toolkit, register for an upcoming event, subscribe to our newsletter, and/or become a member – if you’re not one already!