How to Grow & Care for Red Twig Dogwood on a Balcony

by balconyboss
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Red twig dogwood is an unusual plant. Unlike basically every other decorative plant, most people keep it for its looks when it’s dormant rather than growing. The stems, which are green in summer, turn red in fall, providing amazing color in the dreary winter months.

Luckily, it’s incredibly low maintenance. So, here’s how to grow and care for red twig dogwood on a balcony.

Red Twig Dogwood Requirements

Red twig dogwood is two different plants, both belonging to the Cornus genus. It doesn’t matter which you buy; both do the same thing. It grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8, and can grow up to 9ft. tall and 12ft. wide.

If grown in the right conditions, red twigs can increase up to 2ft. in a growing season. They do fine in pots, but expect their growth to be stunted a little. However, on a balcony, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Red twig dogwood grows white flowers during the spring, which turn into white berries over the summer. It drops its foliage in fall when the stems start to turn deep red. No part of the bush is considered toxic to people or pets.

Important Things to Know

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade

Grow in pots: Yes – start with a pot at least 12” wider than nursery pot

Grow indoors: No

Soil type: Well-draining

When to plant: Winter or spring

Growing Red Twig Dogwood

There’s not much to do when it comes to potting up red twig dogwood. You’ll need the following things:


Buy young plants from a local hardware store. Keep each plant in its own pot, as growing them too close together encourages thin, weak stems.

  1. Fill your pot about a third of the way with soil. Alternatively, add enough soil that the plant will sit level with the top of the pot.
  2. Remove the plant from its nursery pot, knocking the soil off its roots. Tease some roots out slightly before putting it in the larger pot.
  3. Backfill the pot, pressing down lightly on the soil every now and then.
  4. Leave a few days before watering thoroughly.

Maintenance and Care

Pruning is important for any plant, but is particularly vital here. The best color comes from new stems, so prune back older stems in late winter once the plant is fully dormant. You should aim to cut back about a third of the plant to ground level each year.

Start with the oldest and weakest stems and then move on to ones that look too crowded. After the first few times, you’ll get a feel for what works. To completely reshape the plant, cut everything back to about 9”.

Red twig dogwood loves moisture, so water thoroughly and regularly. It can tolerate wet soil more than most plants. You don’t need to fertilize it, but if you decide to, use fish emulsion once a year in spring.

Final Thoughts on Red Twig Dogwood

Red twig dogwood is a great addition to balcony gardens because it comes into its own when most other plants die back. Of course, make sure you plant it where it can be seen and enjoyed all year round.