FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn

Rhamnus frangula 'SMNRFBT' (PPAF) (= Frangula alnus)

FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn

Rhamnus frangula 'SMNRFBT' (PPAF) (= Frangula alnus)

This product is currently out of stock and unavailable.


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn is a slender deciduous shrub with unique willowy or grassy foliage on a narrow plant that will grow to 6 feet but be only 2 feet wide. The tight branching reaches right to the ground, creating a natural screen or hedge that needs no trimming. It also makes a great slender accent in shrub beds or formal settings, such as at the corners of a patio, or creating an avenue along a path. Ideal choice in colder zones. The combination of willowy casual and formal upright is totally unique and charming.

  • Natural slender profile, 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide
  • Graceful narrow grassy leaves
  • Attractive as a hedge or accent specimen
  • Fall colors of yellow and gold
  • Incredibly hardy to zone 2

Full sun is perfect for the FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn, but it will take a little shade too. It grows readily in any well-drained soil, and established plants are tolerant of ordinary summer drought. It is fully hardy even in zone 2, and all the way into zone 7. Use some evergreen fertilizer in spring, and trim before the leaves emerge, if desired – it’s strictly optional. Pests and diseases are not a problem, and deer normally ignore this plant.

Plant Hardiness Zones 2-7
Mature Width 2
Mature Height 5-7
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones 2-7

Some plants have natural charm and good looks, and they catch our attention immediately – “What is that?” When this plant is also incredibly cold-resistant, easy to grow in any soil, and drought resistant too, it is bound to be a winner. With its unique slender form and willowy foliage, the FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn is exactly such a plant. We often need a hedge or screen in a tight space, but we don’t want to embark on a life of endless trimming. This plant is ideal, as it stays just a couple of feet wide, with branches and leaves right to the ground, yet it grows over 6 feet tall. Not only does it make great slender hedges, dense and solid from top to bottom without trimming, it is also a perfect accent. Its soft look, combined with a very slim profile, makes a unique vertical accent in beds, at the corners of a patio, or along a walkway. If you need tough and slim, here it is.

Growing the FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn

Size and Appearance

The Fine Line Improved Buckthorn is a slender, upright deciduous shrub with tight ascending branches, which have no thorns. The stems are a very dark brown, looking almost black in winter. The leaves grow densely all along the branches, from ground level to the top, and they are closely packed on the stems. Each leaf is about 5 inches long, but they are very narrow, perhaps one-tenth of an inch, like a blade of grass. The tight clustering of the glossy, dark-green foliage gives the plant a willowy or grassy appearance, and a unique charm that really draws attention. In fall the leaves turn interesting shades of gold and yellow, adding a sparkling touch.

Flowering happens in spring, after the leaves have opened fully, but it may not be noticed, as the clusters of small, greenish-yellow flowers nestle at the base of the leaves, tucked among them. Insects certainly do notice them, and both bees and butterflies will visit the bush, supporting your local insect populations. After flowering small berries form, again nestled among the leaves. The berries are about ¼ of an inch in diameter, beginning green, turning red by late summer, and then purple to black in fall. They will become noticeable among the golden leaves, and even more so once the leaves have fallen. They attract birds, providing winter food. With the wild version of this plant, birds spread the seeds, making this an invasive plant in some states. However, in this variety the seeds are mostly sterile, and seed germination is only 3%, so the risk of invasion is very low.

Using the FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn in Your Garden

This shrub is totally unique and offers you so many possibilities for interesting uses. With its narrow profile it can be turned into a slender hedge or barrier that needs no trimming. Clustered around unsightly utilities, like meters and air-con units, it turns them into attractive green features. Grow it as a vertical accent in shrub or perennial beds, place it in formal settings along a pathway, or mark the corners of a patio. Wherever you might grow an upright evergreen, instead create a fine line with this fascinating plant. You can even use the foliage with cut flowers in vases – it is a perfect foil for roses or other blooms.


Where the Fine Line Buckthorn really comes into its own is in cold zones. This plant is totally hardy even in zone 2, so there isn’t a place in America that is too cold for this plant to grow happily. Even if you have an exposed garden in the north, this is a plant that will thrive, and that could be used for screening from persistent cold winds. It grows in warmer zones too, right into zone 7, so it grows across most of the nation.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Grow the fine Line Buckthorn in full sun, or in a location with a few hours of shade each day. It grows easily in any ordinary soil, preferring well-drained soils. Once established it will survive dry periods in summer well, but appreciates moisture too, for the lushest growth.

Maintenance and Pruning

No maintenance is needed for this shrub. Pests and diseases are normally never problems. Deer usually ignore it. If you want to keep it even neater and narrower than it naturally is, or keep it shorter, simply trim in spring, before the new leaves appear.

History and Origin of the FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn

Glossy buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula, or more correctly, Frangula alnus, is a shrub that grows wild from north Africa through Europe and most of Scandinavia, westward to China. It was introduced into America a couple of hundred years ago, as a plant for hedging in very cold states. Since then it has spread and become naturalized in many eastern states. The wild plant can be 15 feet tall and wide, with oval leaves. There are two long-established cultivated forms of this plant – ‘Asplenifolia’, the fern-leaf buckthorn, with very narrow leaves, and ‘Columnaris’ (often called Tallhedge), a slender, upright form. In 1989 nurseryman Ron Williams, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, found a unique seedling that was a cross between these two forms. It grew upright and slender, but with narrow, willowy leaves. It was patented (PP# 14,791) as ‘Ron Williams’, and marketed as Fine Line®, by Spring Meadow Nursery, of Grand Haven, Michigan. In recent years Tim Wood, a breeder at Spring Meadow, developed an improved form of this plant, with very tight, denser branching right to the ground. This plant will be patented with the name ‘SMNRFBT’, and it is marketed as FINE LINE® Improved.

Buying the FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn at The Tree Center

With its unique look and resistance to cold, everyone loves this tough and reliable plant. If you need easy screening in a limited space, this is the plant that will do it. Order now, because our stock of this new arrival is very limited, and it won’t be available for long.

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FINE LINE® Improved Buckthorn

Rhamnus frangula 'SMNRFBT' (PPAF) (= Frangula alnus)