Cornus stolonifera (redtwig dogwood), syn. Cornus sericea, (red osier dogwood) is native throughout northern and western North America from Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to Durango and Nuevo León in the west, and Illinois and Virginia in the east. Other names include red willow, redstem dogwood and redtwig dogwood. It is in the family Cornaceae (dogwood family).
In the wild, it commonly grows in areas of damp soil, such as wetlands. It is a medium to tall deciduous shrub, growing 1.5–4 m tall and 3–5 m wide, spreading readily by underground stolons to form dense thickets. The branches and twigs are dark red, although wild plants may lack this coloration in shaded areas. The leaves are opposite, 5–12cm long and 2.5–6cm broad, with an ovate to oblong shape and an entire margin; they are dark green above and glaucous below; fall color is commonly bright red to purple. The flowers are small (5–10mm diameter), dull white, in clusters 3–6cm diameter. The fruit is a globose white berry 5–9mm diameter.
Grown mainly for its wonderful bright red stems that are really shown off in winter. The white, flat flower clusters in late spring aren't very showy, but they are followed by white fruits. Adaptable to gardens, but should be cut to the ground each spring to maintain a smaller stature and brightest red color.
To manage this plant in the garden, it can be pruned to 6"-8" every 3rd spring. This will keep the plant smaller and improve the stem color, making it more intensley red during the following winter.
When available, we have the variety 'Arctic Fire ', a nonsuckering dwarf that is highly regarded in gardens and doesn't need pruning as much, if at all.