Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 9
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Moist to average
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Spring flowers, colorful berries, showy fall foliage; for borders
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring to fall
FAVORITES: A. laevis, A. x grandiflora, A. lamarckii, A. canadensis, A. alnifolia
QUIRKS: Grows poorly in wet soil or during severe drought
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Dogwood, mountain laurel, pine, redbud, winterberry holly, witch hazel
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Fertile garden soil with good drainage
LONGEVITY: Lives many years
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Foliar fungal diseases in warm humid weather; borers
SOURCE: Nursery plants
DIMENSIONS: To 30-35 ft (9.1-10.7m) tall and to 20 ft (6 m) wide

Serviceberry in the Landscape

These are an outstanding group of landscape plants, many native to North America and well suited to small gardens and woodlands. Serviceberries form shrubby, multi-trunked trees that usually grow no taller than 35 ft (10.7 m).All have snow-white flowers in early spring, sometimes with a touch of apple-blossom pink, followed by reddish purple fruits in early summer that rank at the top of the menu for many birds. Most have terrific fall foliage color and silver-gray bark that shines all through winter.

Serviceberries are compact enough to include in a shrub border or foundation grouping. They make a graceful contribution to the edge of a woodland, mixing well with dogwood and redbud. Smaller specimens combine well with twiggy shrubs, such as clethra, hydrangea, witch hazel, and red-osier dogwood.

Selecting Serviceberries

Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) is the largest species used in home gardens, reaching about 30-35 ft (9.1-10.7 m) in height. 'Prince Charles' is desirable for its vigorous growth, abundant blossoms, and red-orange fall foliage. Apple serviceberry (A. x grandiflora) is slightly smaller, at 25 ft (7.6 m), but has larger flowers and its young leaves are bronze. There are many cultivars including 'Autumn Brilliance', which have exceptional leaf color in autumn; 'Robin Hill' has pink buds that open to pale pink flowers that fade to white. 'Strata' has a horizontal branching habit.

A. lamarckii is a bushy, spreading tree with coppery new leaves that mature to green. While the species has prolific white blossoms, 'Rubescens' has soft pink flowers that open from purple-pink buds. Another is the shadblow or downy serviceberry (A. canadensis). In the wild, the species can grow to 60 ft (18.3 m), but most varieties available for gardens grow no more than 15-20 ft (4.6-6.1 m) tall. 'Prince William' and 'Springtyme' are smaller, at 12 ft (3.7 m).

A good choice for the Northwest is alder-leaf serviceberry (A. alnifolia), which has slightly furry young branches and toothed leaves. The variety 'Alta Glow' forms a column up to 20 ft (6.1 m) tall and has yellow to burgundy leaves in autumn.

Growing Serviceberry

Plant in early spring, with the soil ball intact. All species will grow in ordinary soil provided they are watered during drought, especially their first year. Spread a 3 in (7.6 cm) thick layer of organic mulch to retain soil moisture. Growing serviceberries in partial shade lessens the need for supplemental water, but flowering and fall foliage color will be reduced.

Serviceberries have few pest or disease problems in cold climates, but in warm, humid areas they can contract fungal leaf diseases, which dilute the fall color display but do not kill the trees. Occasionally trees stressed by wet soil are attacked by boring insects. If needed, apply a general-purpose insecticide registered for this tree and borers, according to label directions. Pruning is seldom necessary.

Leave a Reply