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Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Shade
The Snowberry is a garden classic, but also a native shrub, so it’s ideal for today’s modern gardens of native plants and natural plantings. It forms a rounded shrub 3 to 5 feet tall, with clusters of pink flowers in summer and large white berries in fall and through much of the winter. The neat rounded leaves are an attractive green, forming a calm background to other plants. It’s very hardy and easy to grow, so ideal for difficult urban gardens, woodland gardens, and low-maintenance natural plantings.
Very cold-hardy, the Snowberry grows even in zone 2. It tolerates shade well, although the most berries are found on bushes growing in the sun. It grows in all kinds of soils that aren’t wet or flooded, thriving on rocky slopes and poor soils, including clays and alkaline soil. It is generally pest and disease free and deer will at most take a few berries. Some thinning out is all the attention needed, and that is optional.
When you garden in cooler zones, you simply don’t have the wide range of plant choices enjoyed by your more southern neighbors. That doesn’t mean ‘boring’, and although well-known to many gardeners, the Snowberry isn’t a plant to pass by – it’s one with many merits. The attractive clusters of white berries are unusual, and stay on the bushes through fall and into winter – even until spring – because most birds don’t find them appealing. The clusters of pink flowers in early summer have a gentle appeal, but the biggest merit-point for this plant is reliability. Plant it and it will grow, no matter where that is. From full sun to moderate shade, and in all kinds of soils except for bogs, this tough native plant is going to hang on. That’s right, those who want to garden with our native flora, the Snowberry is native to a large part of the country, from Nova Scotia to Oregon in fact, and even in New Mexico. No issues with using this plant, no matter how natural and wild your surroundings are. Or not – because this tough guy thrives in harsh urban environments too, filling all those corners in an urban garden where other plants won’t make it. When the going gets tough, bring on the Snowberry.
The Snowberry is a small to medium-sized deciduous shrub that grows between 3 and 6 feet tall, depending on location and the degree of pruning. It has a twiggy structure, sprouting from ground level with many branches that divide into a rounded crown. Bushes spread by sending up new stems from the roots, but this plant is not invasive, as the sprouts are close to the base and serve mainly to replace older branches. The small leaves are mid-green, almost round, and about 2 inches long. They don’t have vibrant fall colors, usually staying green until late, or perhaps turning yellow. In June bushes flower, producing clusters of bright-pink flowers at the base of the leaves along the upper parts of the stems. There can be up to 16 small, bell-shaped flowers in each cluster. These develop into clusters of berries that begin green and by late summer and into fall have turned snowy-white. This striking effect contrasts well in your garden with other, more common, berry colors, such as oranges and reds. The berries are long-lasting, often well into winter, as they are not popular with most types of birds. The berries are toxic to humans, causing vomiting, but cases of poisoning are rare.
The perfect shrub for filling spaces, especially where the sun doesn’t shine all day, the Snowberry is an ideal cover for larger areas, and a great background planting in low-maintenance beds. It’s a plant native to North America, so it is great in natural gardens and woodlands. It was widely grown in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but then largely displaced by newer plants. If you have an older house it is an essential shrub for authentic garden restoration, and has a place in modern gardens too, with our emphasis today on native plants and natural gardening.
This incredibly hardy bush grows well even in icy zone 2, and in all cool to warm parts of the country. It is not suitable beyond zone 7, except in the northwest, where summers are cool and damp.
The Snowberry grows well in full sun, but it also grows with just a few hours of direct sunlight each day, and also in areas with dappled shade, or shadow-zones with clear sky overhead. It will even tolerate full shade, but not grow as vigorously. Plants grown in shade may produce fewer flowers and therefore fewer berries. This bush will grow in all well-drained soils, even poor, rocky soils and urban soils. It will grow in heavy clay, and also – once established – in dry soils too. Avoid very wet locations.
Another great thing about the Snowberry is how free of pests or diseases it is. Some harmless leaf-spots may develop later in the summer, when grown in very difficult spots, but otherwise it stays attractive. Deer normally leave it alone, although they may munch on the berries. You can prune as needed in late winter. Usually removing a few of the oldest stems and shortening back new ones to encourage branching is all that is needed, and plants can be left for years without attention.
The snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, can be found on rocky slopes and woodland borders all across Canada and the northern states of America. The berries are an important food source for animals ranging from bighorn sheep to gophers and birds. Native Americans used the berries medicinally and as soap, and young stems as arrow shafts. The underground roots and stems stabilize slopes, reducing erosion, and this bush is often used on ecological restoration projects around mines and in other degraded areas.
Just because a plant has been around for a long time, and is well-known, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth growing. As a filler and background shrub, the Snowberry has stood the test of time and shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing shrubs for your garden, especially the wilder sections. Many nurseries no longer carry it, so demand from those that do can be high. Order now, before our stock runs out.