Native North American shrub provides interest all year. Attractive spring flowers mature into sweet, bluish-black berries that birds love! Showy fall foliage. Adaptable to woodland or sunny locations. Use as a ground cover or shrub border. Needs organic, acid (sour) soil.
Summer to fall
Grows 1-10' (0.5-3 m) tall, depending on variety.
2-10' (0.5-3 m) apart.
Tips and Uses
2-3 times per week until established
Culinary Uses, Great Fall Colors
› General Plant Info
- Shrubs are hardy plants with woody stems, and are long-term additions to the garden or landscape. Most are bushy in form, many-stemmed and reach less than 20’ at maturity. The line dividing shrubs from trees can be a fine one, depending on how a plant is used and the climate in which it is grown.
- Shrubs bring year-round structure to a landscape or garden, in any climate. They provide seasonal flowers, foliage color and texture and branching form. Some varieties have many changing seasons of interest, others a constant presence or may provide a brief but spectacular display.
- Shrubs have a place in nearly any home landscape:
- As foundation plants next to your house and around hardscape features such as decks, fences and outbuildings, to soften hard lines and create a welcoming space.
- As screening for utility areas and to control or block views of neighboring properties.
- Planted in groupings for a display of seasonal color.
- With small trees as a transition from landscaped to natural areas.
- Mixed with annuals and/or perennials, which can help provide continuous color as the seasonal displays come and go.
- As a part of larger landscape plantings to complement an overall design.
- Design and site considerations:
- Bloom time - Choose your plants based on the desired effect; perhaps you want a blaze of spring or summer flowers, or to stage your garden for bloom throughout the season.
- Color - Choose plants that will enhance your color theme throughout the season. Don’t forget that color comes not only from flowers, but also berries, bark, and seasonally changing foliage.
- Height - Consider the mature height of your shrub when deciding where to place it among other garden plants. Planting large-growing shrubs in too-small spaces can result in a lot of maintenance and pruning down the road. You’ll want all of your plants to get good lighting and be easily seen and appreciated, without overpowering or hiding other plants in the garden.
- Spacing recommendations are based on the normal width of a mature plant (usually at 20 years of age). You may space plants farther apart or closer together, depending on how quickly you want the planting to fill in.
- Light preference - Always match your plants to the light conditions where they will be growing. Most plants are put into one of three basic categories:
- Full sun - 6 or more hours of direct sun
- Part sun - 4-6 hours of direct sun. Also includes bright areas with dappled light
- Shade - Less than 4 hours of direct sun
- Watering needs - For best success, combine plants with similar water needs, and select plants for the conditions your property provides.
- Special features - Look for qualities that suit your gardening objectives, such as low maintenance, fragrance, resistance to deer damage, etc.
- You’ll enjoy your plants more if you visit them regularly, and they’ll always look fresh if you take the opportunity to remove any faded blooms or trim stray growth. You’ll also notice any problems early and be able to take preventive action.
› Water Tips
- New transplants will require extra care for the first few weeks. Initially, you’ll need to frequently check the soil at the plant’s base, and water if it feels dry to the touch. Observe plants closely to check for signs of flagging, and make sure to water before plants wilt. Shrubs may take several months to establish as their roots grow out into their new soil.
- As plants become established, they will need less water, depending on rainfall. A rain gauge is a helpful tool to understand how much water plants receive, and determine any additional irrigation needed. Mature shrubs should need minimal watering except in periods of drought.
- Conditions that increase water needs:
- Dry, windy weather
- Periods of drought
- Sandy, light soils that do not hold moisture well
- Containers or plants in hot, sunny spaces
- For new transplants, make sure the water soaks the original root ball as well as the surrounding soil.
- Slow, deep watering is most effective; frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow root systems that are less drought tolerant.
- Apply water at the base of the plants to minimize evaporation and keep foliage dry, which also helps prevent disease.
- When overhead sprinklers are used, water early in the day; morning is best. Foliage will dry quickly as the day warms.
- If plants are wilted, water right away.
- Check daily, and water thoroughly when soil feels dry an inch below the surface.
- If plants appear to be wilting, check soil to make sure it is dry — extreme overwatering can also cause wilting.
› Planting Tips
- Most soils benefit from the addition of organic matter such as compost, peat, or composted manure. This helps poor, sandy soils to better retain moisture, and breaks up heavy clay soil to help air, water and plant roots move more freely.
- For new planting beds, prepare the soil by tilling and work in organic matter following product recommendations.
- To add new plants to an established bed or use as a specimen in the lawn, dig a hole twice as wide and about the same depth as the root ball of your new plant, slightly more shallow if soil is heavy clay. Mix organic matter with the native soil.
- Gently remove plant from its container, taking care not to pull on the main stem as this can cause damage by breaking away roots.
- Loosen roots gently if they are packed tightly into the shape of the container.
- Plant at the same depth as it was in its container, except as noted above. If plants are being set high, it is important to cover the root ball well, forming gradual slope to the natural soil level.
- Make a low ring of soil around the plants, just wider than the root ball. This will help funnel the water to the plant’s roots during the establishment period.
- For peat pots, break away the lip of the container so that it is just lower than the soil, then plant as above. For other plant-in-the-pot products, follow package directions.
- Water carefully with a gentle flow, soaking the prepared soil and the transplants.
- Mulch may be applied between the plants, keeping a few inches away from the plant stems. This will help prevent weeds and retain moisture.
- Choose a container with drainage holes. There is no need to add pot shards or stones to the bottom of the pot.
- Large planter boxes and containers are best if you want the plants to stay in the container for more than one season. Plants have more room to grow, and are less likely to dry out or be damaged by freezing in larger containers.
- Use a lightweight professional potting mix for containers, or a high-quality organic garden soil for very large open-bottomed planters.
- Remove plants from the nursery pots.
- Loosen roots gently if they are packed tightly into the shape of the container.
- Plant at the same depth as the root ball.
- Water thoroughly with a gentle flow.
- Note that plants grown in containers are more vulnerable to winter extremes. In cold winter climates it is recommended to transplant shrubs into the ground in fall, unless they are hardy to two full zones colder than your region.
- Shrubs will provide the best display in fertile soil. Replenishing soil annually with a top dressing of compost, and maintaining a 2-3” layer of organic mulch will help build and retain good soil fertility.
- Sites with poor or lean, sandy soil may need some help with supplemental fertilizers.
- New transplants will not require fertilization until after they have become established, unless you are using a specially formulated starter product.
- Time-release fertilizers can be used as a soil dressing, and are applied only a few times during the growing season, depending on the product. Each time the plant is watered, a small amount of fertilizer is released.
- Water-soluble fertilizers can be applied with a hose end sprayer or mixed in a watering can or bucket. This gives plants an immediate boost, but will need to be repeated throughout the season.
- Choose a product formulated for your type of shrub. Products are available for evergreens, acid-loving shrubs and flowering shrubs, as well as general use. Follow package instructions carefully.
- If you are uncertain about your soil fertility, your local extension service can usually recommend testing services.
- Shrubs grown in containers may need more fertilization, especially if grown in a soil-less potting mix. If you choose a soil with fertilizer mixed in, apply supplemental feeding only as recommended for that soil product.
- If your plants are dry and wilting, water immediately with clear water. Fertilizing at this time will cause leaf burn. Wait until plants have perked back up before feeding.
› Pruning Tips
- There are many reasons to prune shrubs. Most are a matter of style or preference rather than need:
- To control size and shape of plants and maintain a formal design or keep in proportion with companion plants.
- To keep plants attractive by removing asymmetrical growth or shoots.
- To remove dead or damaged branches.
- To remove rubbing branches and thin out plant center for better air circulation. Spreading plants, such as lilacs and red- and yellow-twigged dogwoods, benefit from removal of older stems to maintain vigor and appearance of plants.
- To remove spent flowers to encourage rebloom and/or tidy plant’s appearance.
- Spring flowering shrubs, including broadleaf evergreens, should be pruned within a few weeks after blooming. This allows the spring display to be enjoyed, and gives the plant time to develop new buds for a good display the following season.
- Shaping and clipping needled evergreens is best done in late winter or early spring, before new growth has started, but light trimming can be done during the growing season to maintain plant shape. Severe pruning of these plants should not be attempted without research, as not all types will grow back as expected.
- Removal of dead, damaged or diseased branches may be done any time.
- Rejuvenation pruning to thin out a plant is generally done in late winter or early spring, when plants are dormant or just emerging in spring.
- Pruning removes part of the plant, but also encourages new growth at the point of a cut. For a more natural appearance, make selective cuts just past a side branch or bud, with attention to the direction the remaining shoot will take.
- Shearing and hedging works well on some plants, but not all. Follow recommendations for your specific plant.
- Hedges should be shaped to be wider at the base than at the top. This ensures that the entire plant gets good light, and will not become twiggy and bare at the base.
- For severe pruning, avoid removing more than 1/3 of the total growth of a shrub without researching the tolerances of the specific plant.
- Weed control - Keep area around plants weed-free to prevent competition and reduce pest and disease problems.
- Look for any signs of disease or insect damage so that you can take prompt preventive action.