Abstract Surface micro-engineering can enhance the thermo-mechanical performance of plasma facing components (PFCs). For example, castellation of a surface can reduce thermal stress due to high heat loads and thus provide higher thermo-mechanical resilience. Recently, fabrication of a variety of micro-sized refractory dendrites with reproducible geometric characteristics (e.g., density, length, height, and aspect ratio) has been demonstrated. In contrast to flat surfaces exposed to high heat loads, dendrites deform independently to minimize near-surface thermal stress, which results in improved thermo-mechanical performance. Thus, the use of dendrites offers a unique micro-engineering approach to enhance the performance of PFC structures. A brief overview of W, Re, and Mo dendritic structures is given along with micrographs that show dendrite-coated surfaces. The thermal responses of representative dendrite structures are analyzed as a function of aspect ratios and dendrite geometry. The heat-management capability of needle-like dendrites exposed to a surface energy of up to 1MJ/m2 is analyzed and compared to a flat surface. It is concluded that dendrite structures can significantly reduce thermal stress in the substrate when compared to flat surfaces. Implications of dendritic surfaces on sputter erosion rates are also discussed briefly.