Kelsey’s Dwarf Red Twig Dogwood

Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'

3 Reviews

Kelsey’s Dwarf Red Twig Dogwood

Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'

3 Reviews


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood is a low-growing deciduous shrub notable for its bright red winter twigs. This selection of a native bush grows only a little over 2 feet tall and wide, with dense, twiggy growth and glossy summer leaves. Fall color is bright orange, red and purple, and the winter twigs are bright red, looking attractive against snow, or beside water. Grow it as a foreground plant in beds, along paths and driveways, or in natural woodland gardens.

  • Cold-resistant plant with bright red winter twigs
  • Attractive glossy leaves on a dense shrub just 2 feet tall
  • Excellent fall colors of red, orange and purple
  • Ideal for native and woodland gardens
  • Grows well in damp or wet soils

Full sun will bring out the best twig color, but this plant also grows well in partial shade. It thrives in all but dry soils, and it is particularly useful for wet ground, by streams, rivers and ponds, or in low-lying areas, where it grows well. It is very cold resistant, and easy to grow, with no problems. Deer normally leave it alone.

Plant Hardiness Zones 3-7
Mature Width 2-2.5
Mature Height 2-2.5
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones 3-7

Winter is a colorless season, especially in colder parts of the country, with gray skies and a snow-covered garden. Color at that time is always valuable, but with so many plants simply bare twigs, what can we do? The answer is to paint those twigs bright colors – not literally, but by growing shrubs with colored stems. Against white snow or black earth, red stems really stand out, and especially come to life when the sun shines. The red twig dogwood is a well-known plant to use for this purpose, and it is easy to grow and tolerant of most garden conditions. But it grows tall, to at least 6 feet, and much more if untrimmed. This is far too big for smaller spaces, or for growing in the foreground of beds, which would be a good high-profile position for them. If you have a smaller garden, or need foreground planting, the answer is to grow Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood. Growing only a little over 2 feet tall, but with the same red winter twigs and pleasant summer foliage, this little shrub is a winner wherever you need winter color without a lot of height.

Growing Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood

Size and Appearance

Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood is a deciduous shrub that forms a low bushy plant, reaching a little over 2 feet tall and wide. It has many vertical branches growing from ground level. The leaves are oval, tapering to a point, with a smooth, glossy surface decorated with prominent veins. They are 2 to 4 inches long, and an attractive rich green. In late spring you may see some clusters of white flowers nestling among the leaves, or at the ends of the branches. These may develop into white berries by late summer, which are attractive, to us and to birds, who often quickly eat them all.

Fall color of the leaves is brilliant and colorful, with shades or red and orange darkening to purples by late fall. Once the leaves fall the beauty of the twigs is revealed, and they remain vibrant and colorful all winter. The lower parts of the branches are brown or greenish, but all the upper parts are bright red, adding a colorful effect to the garden in winter.

Using Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood in Your Garden

Anywhere you feel your garden is drab from late fall to early spring, that is the place to plant this excellent low-growing shrub. Grow it in a bed among other low-growing bushes, or mass plant it along the front of larger beds. Line a walk or driveway with it. It can even be used in planter boxes for winter interest. Because it grows well in wet soil it is perfect lining the bank of a stream or around a pond. As a native plant it fits well into natural gardens and woods, along a path or planted under taller trees and shrubs. Plant the taller Yellow Twig Dogwood behind, for an attractive color contrast.


A great virtue of this plant is its hardiness. It survives winter unharmed in zone 3, and probably even in zone 2, yet it grows well in most warmer areas, beginning to suffer only in the heat and humidity of the south-east in zone 8.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Full sun will give the best twig colors, and strong, bushy growth, but Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood grows well in partial shade too, with just a few hours of direct sun during the growing season. It is extremely valuable if you have wet soil, where it thrives, but it grows just as well in ordinary garden soils. Avoid hot, dry sandy areas, although this plant will handle ordinary summer dryness once well-established.

Maintenance and Pruning

Pests and diseases are rarely problems – some leaf spots may be seen in some years, but these are normally not a serious issue. Deer usually leave it alone. You can grow Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood without any maintenance. Removing some of the oldest branches in late winter will stimulate new, more brightly-colored twigs.

History and Origin of Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood

We owe this valuable shrub to the work of Harlan P. Kelsey, a 20th century American landscape architect, nurseryman and a now largely-forgotten conservationist who was very influential in his time. As important for conservation in the East as the much more famous John Muir was for the west, Kelsey died in 1958. With his pioneer father he had cleared land to create Kelsey Highlands Nursery in Boxford, Massachusetts. His nursery show-garden and plant collections are today preserved as the Kelsey Arboretum. Originally called the Kelsey Pygmy Dogwood, the plant is a form of the red twig dogwood, Cornus sericea. That bush grows wild across most of North America, usually along the banks of rivers and streams, in swamps, or around the edges of wetlands. We don’t know if Kelsey collected his dogwood in the wild, but he did grow many plants from seed at his nursery, so it was perhaps a seedling he noticed for its dwarf form. It was first released around 1939, and it is just as useful today as it was back then.

Buying Kelsey’s Red Twig Dogwood at The Tree Center

Gardening using native plants has become important, and you can do it in your own garden – and enjoy the glow of red twigs in winter – with Kelsey’s gift to gardeners. There is always a big demand for this unique plant, so order yours right away, while we still have stock available.

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Kelsey’s Dwarf Red Twig Dogwood

Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'

3 Reviews