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Garden Coach on Propagating Red Twig Dogwood From Cuttings

April 29, 2009

Pam from Maribel, WI writes:

“Can you cut slips from a variegated red twig dogwood”

Pam, thanks for writing in. Yes, propagating red twig dogwood (or yellow twig or the many cultivars)  is fairly simple from cuttings. (For those of you unfamiliar with terms like “slips” and “propagating”, these terms refer to methods of creating new plants from cuttings of existing plants.)

Spreading Shoots in Light Areas are Ready Divisions

Spreading Shoots in Light Areas are Ready Divisions

Here in Western Washington it is often as simple as taking a cutting of younger growth, removing the lowest internode, and sticking the cutting into the soil. It is such a vigorous grower, that quite often it will take off on its own. However, dipping your twig dogwood’s cut end in a bit of rooting hormone may give you a little added insurance.

By-the-way, did you know you can soak fresh willow in water for 24-48 hours and use that water as rooting hormone? Before you could buy rooting hormone in a jar, this was a traditional rooting stimulator.

There are other methods I’ve read about for propagating twig dogwoods by taking cuttings in fall and storing the cuttings indoors in sawdust over winter to create a bareroot type cutting. When I studied horticulture in college, a few fellow students experimented with this method only to come up with useless twigs by spring. However, it is a known method if you want to give it a shot.

Finally, I always suggest looking around the perimeter of your twig dogwood for spreading shoots. My Midwinter Fire twig dogwood has started spreading underground over the last few years, so it is fairly simple for me to create new plants by digging up the unwanted spreaders.


  1. Karen says:

    I just found some spread in my red twig the other day. So I can just sever and dig and transplant at this time of year? Cool if so! Gotta love plants that make more free plants for us (within reason).

  2. rhaglund says:

    yep. sever. dig. replant. water!

  3. Gail Montgomery says:

    I took some red twig dogwood cuttings and made arrangements with fresh evergreens for the holidays in vases of water. In a few week they had sprouted leaves ! There no were roots at ends in the water which totally surprised me…then in another weeks there were roots ! So I plan to transfer to indoor pots ( I’m in Michigan ) and plant in the spring .?

  4. Sounds like what redtwig dogwood cuttings do in winter arrangements. Potting them up to plant in spring sounds like a great idea. You’ll get to enjoy them while they grow on indoors this winter.

  5. Katy Bigelow says:

    Hi Robin! Can cuttings/insert into ground happen any time of year? Thank you!

  6. Katy,

    It can be hit or miss with the “stick in the ground” method. If it’s wet in summer, you might have luck. But, if the soil is dry, probably not. I’ve inserted several twigs into the same area at the same time of year, and where one may take off, a few others may croak. I’ve had better luck inserting into the ground in early autumn-early spring than at other times of the year. I even find potted twig dogwoods kind of putter along if they’re planted in summer, even if they’re watered well through the summer months. Every location and every plant seems to be different. What have you had luck doing? Or, on the other hand, what’s not worked for you?

  7. Vivian Lehman says:

    We pulled out a red dogwood bush which had grown on its own (in an unwanted area) and were thinking about relocating it. The bush was about 4 ft tall and when yanking it from the ground it came apart in 4 different sections with each section (only 2-3 large branches) had a root system as big as a fist. I am soaking the roots for a few hours and was wondering if I should leave the entire stick part intact or cut it back and if so how far. (thinking) the root system would send up new shoots. I can see the small spring buds which I am sure should leaf out this spring if left uncut.

  8. Vivian, Site unseen, it’s difficult to know what’s ideal in a particular situation. However, we’d probably replant as is. That way the plant can utilize any resources in the top growth as it establishes itself in the new location. That means some top growth may die back. If that happens, you could then trim it next year. Good luck!

  9. Karl Enockson says:

    I Cut red twig dogwood and winterberry branches the last week of March and immediately put them into water. The cuttings were all about 3 feet long. Now, which is mid April some branches are beginning to leaf out. Can I cut off those leafing stems, treat them with rooting powder and try to establish them in soil? If it matters I am in Wisconsin

  10. Karl,

    You may very well be able to insert those shoots into the soil and have them take root. (As I write this, I realize you may be getting hit by a blizzard right now. Wait ’til that’s done before you try – obviously.). You may not even need rooting hormones to get red twig dogwood to take root. Good luck!

  11. […] There are a few different effective ways of propagating the red twig dogwood if you want to grow more plants from the original. The first method involves taking a cutting of young growth from the parent plant. Simply cut a branch of young growth from the dogwood shrub that is taken at the lowest internode of the branch. Immediately place the new cutting into rich soil that is not soaking wet, but contains ample moisture. The red twig dogwood is a plant that is among the easiest to propagate through this method. Keep the planted cutting moist until it shows signs of new growth in the form of new buds and leaves. If you want to increase the chances of success, you can also dip the cut end of the cutting into rooting hormone, but it’s usually not necessary. The second way to create a new red twig dogwood shrub is to look around the parent plant and isolate suckers which have spread and begun to grow outside of the parent plant. These plants have already formed a root system so all you need to do is dig them up and replant in a different spot. […]

  12. Rebecca Field says:

    I purchased bare root red tree dogwood cuttings about 18 months ago. Last summer, most of the cuttings looked like small trees, not shrubs. My questions are:

    How long before they start looking like shrubs?

    Is there anything that I can do to help them look like shrubs?

  13. Rebecca, Do you mean you purchased red twig dogwood? In any case, so many factors can impact how fast or slow any plant will grow/spread/etc… If they’re truly Cornus sericea, and they’re happy, you’ll likely see new shoots emerging from the soil near the base of the plant come spring. Once new shoots begin emerging, you might consider cutting the “tree” shoot to the ground the following winter. Older shoots like this can end up losing color, so cutting out old shoots completely periodically can help keep the spready/bushy “stoloniferous” nature going strong (& colorful). Good luck!

  14. Daniela Chamorro says:

    Hello everyone, My mother has a big red dog wood bush so pretty, love how red it gets. We are from Canada Ontario. I would like to know when is the best time to propagate red dogwood. Can I do it any time of the month? Thank you in advanced.

  15. Daniela, Thanks for writing in. Twig dogwood is pretty forgiving about being propagated at most times of year. Trying in the dead of winter or the highest, driest heat of summer may result in failure, but it’s worth a shot most other times of year. Here, in the PacNW, we can almost always do a proper cutting, shove it in the moist earth & voila! a new plant takes root. If you want more specific information to your region, you might ask a regional Master Gardener or a local nursery for their assistance. Good luck!

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