Redtwig dogwood hedge spacing

smordMarch 17, 2010

I'm about to order redtwig dogwoods (cornus stolonifera aka sericea "cardinal") for a 50' long hedge. It will be an informal hedge, but I don't want space between the shrubs either.

I'll probably cut it back every year or 2 increase the color in the twigs.

How far apart should I space them? (how many should I order)?

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Try 20-25 plants in order to achieve significant density fairly soon. Annual cutting back may be excessive, sometimes twig dogwoods are stunted by this level of frequency. If not trying to get a sheared appearance cutting out oldest canes only, near the base and leaving the rest not pruned each time is likely to work better. It may be some years after planting before it is time to initiate this routine, and it may not be required every year.

Sheared twig dogwood plantings seen here often homely, with sections of dead stubs inside the sheared surface and so on.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 2:35PM
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Their mature size is between 8-10 feet, therefore I would space them 4.5 feet apart, and use 11 shrubs. I used half of the average of the mature width to arrive at this spacing. You may plant them in a line, but stagger them slightly, to give a more natural appearance. No pruning will be necessary for one or two growing seasons. After that, remove 1/3 of the oldest stems, at the base of the shrub (the crown), rather than using hedge clippers. Unless you are going for a uniform appearance, there is never a need to shear shrubs. This will result in the brightest colored twigs, on plants that just touch at the tips of their branches.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 2:57PM
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Thanks! Bboy - Will trimming them to keep them a little below their complete height cause a sparse appearence if I don't sheer them but just trim the tallest (as well as the oldest) canes?

I know Cardinal is supposed to top out around 9', but I really want them to be around 5-6'. My other choice only gets to 3-4' which is too short. They will be in half shade, so I'm kind of hoping they will be a little stunted (I know the color of the twigs may be less bright because of the shade). A few canes getting tall is fine - I just don't want to block out all of the sun from flowers I may eventually plant in front of them.

I want them to look natural and yet still make the statement "I Am A Fence". So no sheering, but closer spacing.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 3:16PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

What is your other choice?

Like other shrubs these do not grow to an arbitrary specific height and then stall out completely, while remaining as healthy, vigorous and attractive as they were up to that point. The supposed 3'-4' one might really be what you need. I've crossed a stream, several feet in the air on the trunks of bending native red-twig dogwood stems elsewhere here in western WA. A lawn specimen I see fairly often north of here, perhaps self-sown along the edge of the property or even remaining from before development (it's a pretty old neighborhood, though) is perhaps 20' tall, with a few of the stems at least several inches thick.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 1:26AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

50 feet of anything sounds boring.. diversity rules .. for the aesthetic, i mean ...

spacing may depend on how fast you want it to fill in ...if you plant them half of the 10 year potential .. it will take 10 years to fill in .... so you might want them closer .. eh???

but if it were me ... i would do something like three on 3 foot centers .. then a lilac ... then 3 more.. then something else ... etc ... in some pattern .... you cover ground with a base plant .. and then add other things for interest ... and spreading out of any flower or color show ...

i am wondering if this is involves a bunch of cheap plants in volume ... and trying to do the whole job fast ... though it may do the job.. i would really prefer you make it more interesting.. EVERYTHING can be found for a good price if you are willing to start small ... so dont jump on this .. simply because you can get 50 redtwigs cheap ... at least leave spots to put other things ...

here are some other alternatives:

mock orange [and variegated]
fragrant viburnum
variegated lilac

if you do right.. they each have a differing flower time.. and can add months of interest beyond some red twigs in spring.. and a plain green ugly shrub the rest of the year ... for 50 endless feet ...

IMHO .. just my 2 cents.. redtwig is a fairly aggressive shrub.. and mine outgrew its space and became an ugly monster in just a few years ... it would have been removed.. had i not sold the house and left it there ... i was simply not impressed a few years after the excitement was gone ... i didnt know about rejuvenation pruning to keep it better looking.. but think hard about having to start removing 1/3 of each plant on a row of 50 feet of them .. every year .. FOREVER ...

the options are many ... and whatever you decide i fine with me ...

good luck


    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 8:41AM
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Hi Ken - usually I would agree with you that diversity rules - both for the sake of interest and for the sake of not letting the whole thing get wiped out by one disease or pest. But after a LOT of thinking and sketching and research, I've decided that given the style of the house, the function of the yard, etc, a slightly formal look for the hedge (which will eventually be the background for a perennial and small conifer border) will look right. (Not a sheered look, though.) If it were an older house with more character I would never do it, but the house has a formal look to it and needs a few formal garden elements to pull everything together.

Also, the area is very visible from the window I look out of during the winter, and massed redtwigs will look terrific in the winter (I'll have a diagnonal - not straight view from the window so they shoudl really stand out. I've seen a lot of single redtwigs in the area and they just don't stand out by themselves.) Also, it WILL provide a fast, cheap fence, which I really do need given that my almost-3-year-old will be playing on the lawn.

Also, they're inexpensive and fast-growing enough that I won't feel too bad if I decide to replace some of them in 5 years, or maybe even move a few of them to other parts of the property.

The redtwigs seem sturdy but not too aggressive here, so hopefully these will work out. They're also supposed to handle wet feet to some extent, which we tend to have during certain months of the year, and they can handle the partial shade that the lilacs never would. And they should handle my clay soil. I've actually considered all the of the other shrubs you suggest and do plan on putting a few of them in here and there around the property some other year.

I went ahead and ordered 25 of them from Bluestone. I figure I need to just get started an can't analyze everything to death. If they get to be 10 feet tall I may decide I like them that way, or I may decide to replace some or all of them, or move some of them. There are lots of possibilities. I suspect my plans for the landscaping will evolve as I gain more experience.

Now the next questions: In the next couple of weeks I'm going to rototill the whole darn back yard (while removing some of the construction debris) and seeding grass. I rototill the area I'll be putting in the hedge since I'm doing the whole area, or should I leave it solid clay so the shrubs don't sink too much? Hmmmmmm.....

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 1:23PM
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It may be too late but...I have two kinds of "red twigged dogwoods", the varigated leafed 'Elegantissima' and the dwarf 'Alleman's Compact' (I don't have room for 'Cardinal'). I want to add 'Winter Flame' for some yellow twigs. And a little variety! There are plain yellow-twigged ones too. Point is, if you have the room for 50 feet of dogwoods, you don't need 50 feet of the same dogwood. Maybe Bluestone could still give you the same deal, with a little more variety in foliage/twig color.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 2:06PM
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lol. No, I've actually given this months and months of thought and research . I really actually want 50' of the exact same plant. I have a lot more interesting things going on in other parts of the property, but for some reason I don't like mixed hedges. Mixed borders, I love, but mixed hedges always look to me like they can't decide whether they are a formal hedge or just a random hodgepodge of bushes planted to closely together. Plus it will make a nice uniform backdrop for the mixed border I eventually plan to put in front of it. I have a mixed border in front of the house and am starting a new mixed border on the other side of the yard with the hedge, so I have some interest going on. I will probably plant a few small flowering trees in front of the hedge as well.

I just think the 50' hedge will look a lot better than 50' of chainlink. :)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 3:34PM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

I really actually want 50' of the exact same plant.

I agree this is a good plan, and I commend you for standing your ground. RT Dogwood wants to be at least 10 X 10, so just plan on taking out the long canes every Spring.

I think I would plant them at least 5 feet apart because they will easily become 4-6 feet wide in the first or second year. Soon you will have a 10 foot wide thicket that the birds will love in the fall and will make you smile all Winter. They really are great in masses.

In fact, in gardening, it is masses that rule, not diversity.

Consider getting a Fiskars Pruning Stik to maintain your hedge. I love mine and I recommend it every chance I get. It really is a nice tool.

Have a great season.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fiskars Pruning Stik

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 8:38PM
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"I have a lot more interesting things going on in other parts of the property, but for some reason I don't like mixed hedges."

I have actually been stewing on this same thing all winter, not too many uniform hedges out there, it's a lost art in a lot of suburbs (and other places). We're lucky, in our neighborhood of older houses, we have a few. They only use one kind of plant. My favorite is the lilac hedge.

As far as spacing five feet apart, yeah, more space is probably better.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 11:50PM
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I think this sounds like a nice idea too. I have an area that I think sounds similar to what you are describing, and have often thought a nice look for it would be a long allee of limelight hydrangea. And I would do it if I didn't hate the mean neighbors who would be the ones who would see it most often. LOL!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 10:29AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I think its great that your set and sticking with it...everybody has a different idea of what looks good. sounds just like the rookie mistakes I made with a, imagine this, a 50' privacy hedge. It looked nice for about 1 year...I quickly starting swaping the plants out as it was very boring (especialy once I realized I had taken a liking to landscaping). Then the dang ninebarks starting getting powdery mildew, oops now I'm bascially starting from scratch.

If you stick with dogwoods, I really like and would encourage the mixing of the yellow twig dogwoods.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 10:08PM
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It's possible I'll get bored with it, but i'm really planning a perennial and conifer border I front of it, which should certainly decrease te boredom factor (although I won't get around to lanting that until next year). And I absolutely LOVE the sight of massed redtwigs in the winter. Swapping plants out in the future is definitely a possibility though.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2010 at 7:55PM
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Hi there, I may be a little late to the party, but have been doing some research on the best way to prune my Red Twigs and came across this post. I have 5 of them planted that are acting as a fence for me, along a 25 foot stretch. They provide a nice visual barrier from my neighbor and the street. They are in full sun, and I'd expect they are planted about 5 feet apart, Even at that space, they are competing with each other. They are nice and big, and easily are 8-10 feet tall. I love the variety of look they have over the course of the year.
I really like the look of them, and understand why you'd want a nice long row of them. But I'd encourage you to rethink your strategy about planting 25 of them in a 50 foot space unless you have a particularly small variety. I think mine are planted too close as it is, and they are competing with each other. They also require a boat load of pruning each year to keep them looking healthy, as they are very aggressive growers. They end up looking really scraggly and unbalanced at this spacing and without lots of pruning. You mention that you want a formal look. Seems to me that that many would just end up being crowded and messy.

You don't seem afraid of work given some of the other plans you mention, but I can tell you from my own experience, I spend more time pruning my red twigs than most of my other gardening tasks, and I have a fair amount of garden space aside from this. I also haven't been good at taking out a third each year to keep them manageable so I could be doing even more pruning than I do. You'll be setting yourself up for lots of pruning even with only 10 red twigs in that space. Best of luck with your hedge row. Maybe you'll post a picture.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:40AM
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Hi! I came across this thread while stressing about whether to put a row of red twig dogwoods along my back chain link (75') to hide it as well as the neighbor's garage which abuts the fence on the other side. I was between this and green giant arborvitaes, and I am scared to do the wrong thing. Also, I am a bit scared of the pruning. In front of the trees on one side will be a Vulcan magnolia I planted a few years ago, and the swing set is 10 ft in front of the fence on the other side. We get a good amount of snow (southern NY) if that matters.
What did you learn from your experience/ was it a good choice?
Please help! Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 1:22PM
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I can tell you from my one sericea that this thing gets big - easily 10 feet in diameter from branch tip to branch tip. It takes up a LOT of room, which is fine for me where it is, but might not suit your situation. I cut it back when I remember to do it, but it's not in my way so I pretty much let it go. The branches arch, and root when they touch the ground - instant new shrub, which will get just as big as its mama. Perhaps the cultivars are more restrained than the species is.

If you're looking to cover 75 feet, please take a look at Ken's post way up above about mixing shrubs in a border; if you're not planting a formal hedge, mixing is better in the long run.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 5:36PM
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