Salix alba 'Britzensis'

Plants to grow for colourful stems

Add a splash of dramatic colour to your winter garden, using plants with vivid stems.

Plants with vividly colourful stems really come into their own in winter, when they’re no longer obscured by foliage. Rich red dogwoods and lime-green willows look stunning on a cold winter day, especially when the sun is shining.

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When choosing plants for stem colour, do check their particular care requirements. Dogwoods, for example, should be cut right back each year to produce new stems, which provide the best winter colour.

More on colourful plants:

Browse our pick of plants for intense winter colour, below.


Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'
Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Dogwoods are perhaps the best known plants with colourful winter stems. ‘Midwinter Fire’ has upright growth, in blazing tones of red and orange.

Height x spread: 3m x 2.4m.


Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’

Cornus alba 'Sibirica'
Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’

Like Cornus sanguinea, Cornus alba is capable of growing into a small tree if left unpruned. However, pruning out a third of the oldest stems to the ground each year will restrict its size and produce the best winter colour. ‘Sibirica’ has brilliant red stems and creamy white flowers in summer.

H x S: 3m x 3m.


Acer rufinerve ‘Erythrocladum’

Acer rufinerve 'Erythrocladum' and Molinia caerulea subsp arundinacea 'Zuneigung'
Acer rufinerve ‘Erythrocladum’ and Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Zuneigung’

This cultivar of the grey snake-bark maple, Acer rufinerve, is a small tree with red-pink buds and new growth that gradually turns golden yellow as it ages. Here, ‘Erythrocladum’ is surrounded with a softening mix of deciduous grasses.

H x S: 7m x 4m.


Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula
Prunus serrula

The Tibetan cherry, Prunus serrula, has glorious mahogany bark that gradually peels away as the trunk ages and expands. It also bears spring blossom, small summer cherries and beautiful autumn foliage.

H x S: 10m x 10m.


Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Britzensis’

Salix alba 'Britzensis'
Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Britzensis’

When the leaves have fallen, ‘Britzensis’ turns into a beacon of colour. It’s usually pollarded or coppiced each year or every few years to produce a flush of colourful new stems. Great growing next to water where the colour can be picked up in the reflection.

H x S: 10m x 30m.


Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’

Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea'
Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’

Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’ bears upright, yellow-green stems that look fabulous planted en masse. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade, but like other cornus, the stem colour is stronger when grown in full sun.

H x S: 3m x 3m.


Rubus cockburnianus

Rubus cockburnianus
Rubus cockburnianus

This striking ornamental raspberry has gleaming white stems, with the newer growth burnished with red. In the warmer months, it forms a thicket of attractive, leafy foliage. Here its planted with a contrasting carpet of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’.

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H x S: 3m x 3m.


Planting partners

Combine dogwoods, willows and rubus with winter heather, ophiopogon, snowdrops, carex, sweet box and the seedheads of plants like phlomis and achillea.

Gardening gloves. Photo: Getty Images.