Serviceberries are outstanding landscape plants, native to North America and well suited to small gardens and woodlands. Here are some care-free tips for choosing and growing a serviceberry tree at home.
Serviceberries fit small spaces
Serviceberries form shrubby trees have multiple trunks that usually grow no taller than 10 metres (33 feet).
- 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 colour 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 the perfect serviceberry tree
- Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) is the largest species used in home gardens, reaching about nine to 10 metres (30 to 33 feet) in height.
- ‘Prince Charles’ is desirable for its vigorous growth, abundant blossoms and red-orange fall foliage.
- Apple serviceberry (A. × grandiflora) is slightly smaller at 7.5 metres (25 feet) but has larger flowers and its young leaves are bronze.
- There are many cultivars, including ‘Autumn Brilliance’, that have exceptional autumn leaf colour.
- ‘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 18 metres (60 feet), but most varieties available for gardens grow no more than 4.5 to six metres (15 to 20 feet) tall.
- ‘Prince William’ and ‘Springtyme’ are smaller, at 3.5 metres (11.5 feet).
- A good choice for Western Canada is alder-leaf serviceberry (A. alnifolia), which has slightly furry young branches and toothed leaves.
- The variety ‘Alta Glow’ forms a column up to six metres (20 feet) tall and has yellow to burgundy leaves in autumn.
Tips for growing your 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 an eight-centimetre-thick (three-inch-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 colour 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 colour 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 according to label directions. Pruning is seldom necessary.
- Serviceberry trees are low maintenance and ideal for any outdoor space. Consider these tips before choosing a tree and cultivate a healthy serviceberry.