Dogwoods for Fall Color in the Landscape

 by Jan Cashman

This year we have had a beautiful, long fall.   The first freeze at our house was as late as I can ever remember, October 14.  The fall leaves have been beautiful.  Quaking aspens, maples, birch all have stunningly colorful leaves that have stayed on the trees, not fallen off prematurely.  The leaves of the shrubs around the valley are colorful too.  Cotoneaster and burning bush (Euonymus) are two shrubs that have bright red, hot pink, gold, and orange leaves.  But let’s not forget about dogwoods. For many reasons, they are a great shrub for us here in the Gallatin Valley.

First of all, dogwood shrubs are very hardy; some are native to our area.  They thrive in either sun or shade.  If you have a spot in your yard that stays wet, either a low spot near a creek or near sprinklers, dogwoods will do well there.  In other words, dogwoods are easy to grow.  They give our yards four seasons of interest, from pretty white flowers in late spring, to green leaves all summer, colorful red, orange, and golden leaves in the fall, and bright red twigs that stand out against the snow all winter.  Variegated leafed dogwoods like Ivory Halo are our most popular dogwoods because of their green and white leaves.

Not all dogwoods grow well here.  If you come from a warmer climate than ours, you are probably familiar with the dogwood trees that have pretty white, pink or red flowers in the spring.  These dogwood trees are not suited to our climate—not hardy enough to withstand our winters.  Pagoda dogwood is a small tree or tall shrub with an interesting horizontal branching habit and bight red fall color.  It is native to places like Northern Minnesota, but is marginally hardy here due to our dry air and alkaline soils.

My husband Jerry’s favorite dogwood is Arctic Fire because it has the brightest red stems, strong branches and stays compact.  This non-suckering, hardy shrub grows to only 3 to 4 feet so it is easier to use in your landscape design than the bigger species that grow up to to 8 feet tall.  Plant one or more and remember to harvest a few of their red stems to use in your Christmas arrangements. 

You can see from the chart that there are many varieties of dogwood shrubs that grow well here…
Favorite Dogwoods (Genus Cornus) for the Bozeman area:

Common Name



Fall Color


Bud’s Yellow

alba Bud’s Yellow



Superior to Yellow Twig

Ivory Halo

alba Bailhalo



Variegated leaf

Red Twig

sericea Coloradoensis



Native selected from Colorado

Fire Dance

sericea Bailadeline



Improved Isanti


sericea Isanti



Excellent mid-size shrub

Arctic Fire

stolonifera Farrow



Non suckering. Improvement