Prairie Fire Red Twig DogwoodCornus alba 'Prairie Fire'
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Cornus alba 'Prairie Fire'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Prairie Fire Dogwood is a wonderful shrub for any garden. It has beautiful golden yellow leaves all spring and summer, and in winter it has the brightest red twigs of any dogwood available. It also has unique porcelain-blue berries in mid-summer, and to top it off, it is hardy to zone 3 – minus 40 degrees. Plant it as a striking specimen anywhere in your garden. It looks especially effective near water, and it is a great choice for wetter parts of the garden. It grows between 5 and 8 feet tall, depending on pruning, and it is about 5 feet across. Plant it alone, or in groups for a beautiful effect.
The Prairie Fire Dogwood will have the best foliage and twig color if grown in a sunny place, but it will tolerate some shade too. It grows well in ordinary garden soil, with some drought resistance once established, but it thrives in damper places, unlike most other shrubs. It has few pest or disease problems, and deer usually do little or no damage. Prune every few years, or annually, by removing older wood to encourage bright new shoots. Overgrown plants can be cut to the ground, and they will re-grow quickly.
Although we strive to have interesting features in a garden during all the seasons, we usually achieve that by planting a variety of carefully-chosen plants. It is rare to have an individual plant that is a source of color and interest in every season – and even rarer to find it in an easy-care, tough plant that will grow almost anywhere, even in very cold zones. There is one plant, though, that does fit that category, and it is the Prairie Fire Dogwood. Full of color all year round, incredibly cold-hardy, and needing almost no care, you simply can’t be without this plant in your garden.
The Prairie Fire Dogwood is an upright shrub with straight branches rising 5 feet or more from the base. It has many stems and it occupies an area 4 or 5 feet across. This is not a form of the American native red dogwood, and it doesn’t have the strong tendency to spread and invade surrounding areas that plant has. It stays where you plant it. The stems of this dogwood are a brilliant orange-red, making it one of the brightest features of the winter and early spring garden. Shining in the sunlight against a backdrop of white snow, or the dark earth of a winter garden bed, it is a great highlight during that most colorless time of year.
When spring comes, the new leaves, which are 4½ inches long, oval, and tapering to a point, appear. These are rich, golden-yellow, so that the whole plant glows like a golden flame. In shadier areas they are more a chartreuse green, which is still attractive, and one of the most ‘fashionable’ garden colors right now. That golden color holds all summer long, without fading, keeping this plant attractive for months. Then in fall it turns wonderful shades of pink and red, making a real highlight, and complimenting the leaves of your fall trees. As the leaves fall, the fresh, orange-red twigs are revealed, starting the cycle over again.
There is also a more modest feature, in the form of clusters of white flowers among the leaves on older stems. These change into bunches of white berries that turn a very unusual Wedgewood-blue by mid-summer. You may have to move some leaves to find them, but the startling color makes the hunt worthwhile. Unfortunately, birds have no trouble finding them, and they take them as food, so they don’t last long – keep a look out, as that color is rare in the garden.
Use the Prairie Fire Dogwood as a featured shrub in a mixed border, or in a row as a boundary or edging. It can be used as a single plant in a smaller garden, and it is also superb for mass planting in larger beds, to fill spaces with interesting plants that don’t need much care. Use it in natural settings, around a pond or along a stream – or beside a lake at a cottage. Although strictly not the native dogwood, it is so similar it can be used as an alternative. For a very striking effect, combine it with the yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’), whose golden twigs look perfect among the red ones of the Prairie Fire Dogwood. Because it is so cold-hardy, this shrub is especially useful for gardeners in cold zones, where the choice of shrubs is more limited.
Plant the Prairie Fire Dogwood in full sun for the brightest leaf and twig color, but it will also grow well in partial shade. It is very winter hardy, surviving easily in zone 3, with winter lows of minus 40. It grows in most ordinary garden soil, and it is a plant that does not need ‘well-drained soil’, so it is the perfect choice for wetter areas. It will also grow perfectly well in ordinary soil, if it is not too sandy and dry. Water regularly until it is established, and water during dry periods. Mulching with rich organic material will help conserve moisture and develop strong growth and vivid color. This plant has no serious pests or diseases, and it needs little care. Deer may take a nibble, but they rarely cause serious damage to this plant. Every couple of years it will benefit from a spring pruning. Remove older stems at ground level and cut back young stems to about 4 feet tall. This will encourage long new stems to develop, with the best winter red coloring. Alternatively, in warmer zones, you can cut it to the ground and it will quickly re-sprout.
The Prairie Fire Dogwood is a selected form of the Siberian dogwood, Cornus alba. This plant is similar to the North American red-twig dogwood, Cornus sericea, but it grows throughout Siberia, northern China, and into Korea. In the wild it can become a small, 10-foot multi-trunk tree. Its red twigs are the brightest of any dogwood. Sadly. we have no idea where the form called ‘Prairie Fire’ came from, but it may be a re-naming of an older variety, first mentioned around 1903, called ‘Aurea’.
Our plants are of the best quality, and this plant is the brightest red-twig dogwood in existence. With its unique foliage it is extremely popular, so we know our stock will soon be gone. Order now and enjoy one of the brightest and easiest garden shrubs.