Downy serviceberry, a North American native, is a large shrub or small tree that adds beauty to your landscape season after season. Fragrant white flowers appear in spring, along with the first leaf buds. Small edible purple-black fruits, favorites of birds, ripen in summer. The berries can be used for pies and jams. In the fall, the foliage is brilliant orange, yellow, or red. Silvery gray bark provides winter interest.
Common name: Downy serviceberry, juneberry, shadbush
Botanical name: Amelanchier arborea
Plant type: large shrub or small tree
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: 15 to 25 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade. In the wild it’s usually an understory tree, growing in the partial shade of larger trees.
• Soil: Best in well-drained, slightly acidic loam; tolerates clay and sand.
• Moisture: Prefers moist but tolerates dry or occasionally wet soil.
• Pruning: Suckers freely from base and will form a dense shrub if not pruned. Can be pruned to form a small tree. Annual pruning is suggested.
• Fertilizer: Don’t fertilize the first year after planting. After that, use organic fertilizer once a year.
• Mulch: Add 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch to retain moisture and deter weeds. Leave a space between stems and mulch.
• By seed: Remove seeds from ripe fruit. Seeds planted in fall should sprout in spring. Germination less than 50 percent.
• By suckers: dig suckers that are 2 to 3 years old and root them in a pot. If roots are already formed, plant directly in ground.
• By cuttings.
Pests and diseases
• Occasional problems with rust, fungal leaf spots, fire blight, leaf blight, black mildew, and powdery mildew
• Occasional pests: cambium and leaf miners, pear sawfly, borers, spider mites, aphids, and scale
• Grow as a small tree or large shrub in part shade or in woodland gardens.
• Birds eat the purple-black fruit; people can too, if they get there before the birds.
• No known cultivars.
All in the family
• There are many varieties of Amelanchier—some so similar that identification can be difficult. Among the most common are A. alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry), A. x grandiflora (apple serviceberry, a cross between A. arborea and A. laevis), A. laevis (Allegheny serviceberry) and A. stolonifera (running serviceberry). Several cultivars of A. x grandiflora are available, including ‘Autumn Brilliance’, ‘Princess Diana’, and ‘Robin Hill’.
Where to buy
• Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE, 888-448-7337, www.arborday.org
• Shooting Star Nursery, Georgetown, KY, 866-405-7979, www.shootingstarnursery.com
• Cold Stream Farm, Freesoil, MI, 231-464-5809, www.coldstreamfarm.net
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden)