Cornus alba var. sibirica, Cornus alba 'Westonbirt', Cornus sibirica and Cornus sibirica 'Westonbirt'.



Common name/s ?

Siberian dogwood and dogwood 'Sibirica'.

Skill rating



East Asia.

Type of plant ?

Deciduous, perennial shrub.

Hardiness zone ?

RHS zone


EGF zone


USDA zone


Eventual size

Grows to 2.5m height and spread.

Growth rate ?

Slow, will take 5 to 10 years to reach its full height.

Shape it grows into

Upright shrub, spreading more with age.

Season/s of interest

Flowers in spring and summer, red leaves in autumn and bright stem colour in winter.

Where to grow it

Happy in full sun or part shade.
Prefers well drained to moist soil.

Best stem colour is achieved in full sun. Happy in sandy, clay or loam soil and a neutral or acidic pH. Can be planted in sheltered or exposed sites.

Cornus alba 'Sibirica'


Heads of creamy-white flowers appear in late spring/early summer surrounded by dark green foliage. Small, blue/white fruits follow in autumn. The leaves redden slightly in autumn before falling to reveal bright red stems.

However, it’s difficult to have it all with this plant! The best stem colour comes with young stems, so you need to hard prune it each year to cut out the older ones (see below). But if you hard prune it you will cut off the flower buds and won’t get a floral display that year.

What to use it for

Great for borders and beds, especially to add winter interest. They look best planted in groups in front of a dark background, such as an evergreen hedge. Could be used as deciduous hedging.

How to look after it

Apart from regular pruning, this plant is low maintenance and requires no other care.

How to prune it

This dogwood should be pruned in early spring (February or March), before the buds break (open). How you prune it depends on what you want from the plant…

If you are growing it for the flowers and fruit then you should keep pruning to a minimum. If you need to restrict its size then remove a quarter of the old shoots from the base each year, which will also encourage more new growth. To renovate a neglected plant, prune out all the old wood from the centre of the plant, cutting it out from the base, which will encourage fresh growth.

If you are growing it for the winter stem colour, then you need to keep all the stems young, as the younger stems have the best colour. The first year after planting the shrub, don’t prune it at all, as this can cause it to die suddenly. In the second year cut all the stems down to 5cm from the ground. In subsequent years, or for established plants, cut all the stems back to leave just two buds of the previous year’s growth at the base of each stem (coppicing).

How to propagate it

The easiest way to propagate this dogwood is to take hardwood cuttings from late autumn to midwinter. Keep the cuttings outside, in a sheltered spot, to root.

Alternatively, seeds can be collected from ripe fruits in autumn and sown outdoors straight away (before they become dormant) or cold stratified for sowing in spring. Seeds from cultivars are unlikely to come true to type.

Softwood cuttings can also be taken, but these are hard to root. Softwood cuttings should be taken just as the lenticels (tiny white pores) start to form on the stem in late spring or early summer. Nodal cuttings less than 7cm long should be taken, dipped in a weak rooting hormone compound and placed in cutting compost. They should root in 4 weeks.

Common problems

Cornus anthracnose and die back can be a problem, as can viral diseases. Generally pest free, but can be susceptible to attacks by aphids, vine weevil, mussel scale, horse chestnut scale and two-spotted spider mites.

Other useful information

It is thought that the common name of ‘dogwood’ derives from the use of the stems to make ‘dags’ (daggers, skewers or arrows), so the name may have started out as dagwood and eventually became dogwood (the term ‘dogwood’ can be dated back to the 1600s). An even older name for Cornus is ‘whippletree’, a name used as far back as Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (15th century). The term whippletree is still used today as a name of part of the mechanism by which horses draw vehicles or ploughs – the part was originally made from Cornus wood.

The phrase ‘dogwood winter’ is colloquially used to describe a sudden cold spell in April/May when dogwoods are flowering.

This Cornus alba has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS.