Are you looking for a shrub that is both attractive and wildlife-friendly? Snowberry, or Symphoricarpos, makes a beautiful addition to nearly any garden and a great way to attract animals as large as deer or as small as butterflies.
This mid-sized shrub sports eye-catching pink or white bell-shaped flowers through the spring and summer that transform into closely clustered pink or white berries that last through the fall and winter.
Snowberries are notoriously challenging to grow from seed, so your best bet is picking up a plant from your local nursery or grabbing some rootstock from a willing neighbor. Once you have your snowberry plant in hand, it doesn't require any special care while transporting. Just make sure you regularly water it and let it get some sun until you're ready to plant.
To give your snowberry the best chance to thrive, plant it in the spring before it's too warm or in fall before it gets too cold. Snowberry likes to spread out wide, up to 6 feet, so make sure to provide 7 to 8 feet of room when planting and ensure good air circulation.
In the wild, snowberry bushes can be found along riverbanks and scattered through woodlands, hiding under tree canopies. They grow best in full sun but can tolerate shaded areas as well. The shrub is incredibly versatile, and while it may be more vibrant when planted somewhere sunny, it can fill any empty spot in your garden.
Snowberry loves moist soil and needs regular watering until it's fully established. After that, it can tolerate dry spells, so there's no need to hire a gardener for that two-week vacation. As long as your shrubs look healthy and green, mature plants don't require extra watering.
As with most species, though, if you want to get the most out of your snowberry, give it a drink every once and a while.
A prima donna the snowberry is not. This plant does well in most soil types and does not need special nutrients to grow well. Snowberry appreciates an application of basic fertilizer every other year, but even that's not strictly necessary. The best advice for fertilizing your snowberry is just to let it be as long as it looks healthy and robust.
These plants grow best in USDA zones three to seven, which is most of the continental United States. This makes sense, as snowberry is native to North America — it can withstand most conditions here. It may need a little care at the extreme ends of the temperature scale but will survive most weather-related threats..
Pruning is an essential part of caring for your snowberry. These plants like to spread, and they spread wide. Waiting until early spring to prune snowberry yields the best results. Remove any suckers you don't want to become established plants and cut back dead or dying foliage.
Decorative shaping can also be undertaken at this time to round out your bush and keep it looking neat.
If one of your goals of planting snowberry shurbs is to attract wildlife, do not cover them in the winter. The berries are an essential food source for animals during the colder months when other food is scarce. Plus, snowberry shines in the winter, when most other foliage has died back, because it retains berries through to spring.
While they require regular sucker removal in the spring and summer, snowberry shrubs do not need special care to withstand the winter.
Easily propagate your snowberry through cuttings. All you need is 4 to 6 inches from the current year's growth to establish a new plant. Cuttings should be planted in nursery pots full of seedling mix and watered regularly. Allow these cuttings to grow until the following spring when they can be transplanted outdoors.
Look out for fungus or mold infections on your snowberry plants. These will appear as brown or white spots on the leaves and eventually lead to leaf death. The best way to avoid infection is to not crowd the plants: ensure your snowberry has good air circulation among its leaves.
If your plant is already sick, use commercial anti-fungal and anti-mold sprays during the growing season.
Snowberry bushes are not particularly susceptible to pests, but you'll probably want to check them for the occasional slug or snail. They're a wildlife favorite, so don't be surprised if the berries are picked off by birds or passing deer.
If there is a spot or blemish on your snowberry plant, it's far more likely to be caused by disease than a pest.
If you have a treeline in your yard, snowberry shrubs can serve as attractive edging that softens the transition from yard to woods. They can also be planted along the front of the house since they will generally grow to just under the first-floor windows.
Pair your snowberry with spring and summer bloomers to fill the void when those plants die back in the fall.
Snowberry is just one of a number of popular berry-bearing shrubs. Its berries aren't edible for humans, so consider a blueberry or elderberry bush if you want something you can harvest.
Winterberry is an excellent substitute for snowberry, with vibrant, red berries that possess the same wildlife-attracting properties that make snowberry so popular.
These plants make a great snack for wildlife but are mildly poisonous to humans. If you or your child accidentally eat one, you're more likely to end up with a tummy ache than a trip to the hospital.
Some native peoples use snowberry as a food source, following specialized cooking techniques to remove the toxins. However, it's a complex process and not worth the risk of making you or your loved ones sick.
Snowberry comes in many varieties, all with unique characteristics. Common snowberry sports pale pink to white flowers in the spring and summer and pure white berries during the fall and winter. The popular magic berry variety has bright pink blooms and large, densely packed pink berries.
If you're looking for a more subtle hue, the mother of pearl type has pale pink flowers and lustrous pale pink berries.