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Snowberry pruning

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Snowberry! (Symphoricarpos albus, with white berries, or pink-fruited S. orbiculatus) About all you can say about any of them is you can try to keep it within bounds. "Try" being the operative word.


Pink berries mean it's  S. orbiculatus or a hybrid.



Cut it down if you will, or just remove older canes (that's my usual approach, based on my suspicion that removing all the top growth will warm more of the subterranean parts and call those buds up into growth). But in addition to pruning the top, prune the suckers. Every spring, cut into the ground around the shrub and strip out the runners that are heading to places you would rather keep snowberry-less.


I don't think we have photos of this process on a snowberry. (Despite what it seems, we sometimes work without photographing.) We do have a sequence of doing this to sweetspire, which would be essentially the same. I will go look for those and post them at Control a suckering shrub.


Apologies in advance. I feel a ramble coming on as Snowberry memories come pouring into my brain!


I grew up with a snowberry that was 5-6' tall and stayed sedately in place. We kids enjoyed stripping the white berries off in fall. I thought it was S. albus and that was what I began planting for clients 20 years ago. Yet every snowberry on my beat became a 4' tall, infinitely wide-spreading, suckering imp. Maybe the one I grew up with was only being held in check by the pounding feet of the 10 kids in my house plus every other kid in the neighborhood told to "Stay off that lawn! Go play at the Macunovich yard!"


So anyway, after seeing the behavior of the snowberry bushes I've planted as an adult, I began looking for the various species at public gardens as a way to definitely categorize them. The two species I list above and a couple of hybrids are what's usually for sale.


My memory of the first search year is dominated by what I saw in to the Niagara Falls Botanical Garden parking lot. There I was, planning to find their snowberries and observe their growth habits, when I realized that the entire curb-bound island I had parked next to was completely full of snowberry. Choked with it.



Danger, Wil Robinson! I thought. It's running wild. I even moved my car to a farther spot before going in search of other snowberry species. Found the native white S. orbiculatus - suckering away! - and the shorter but just as suckery, coral berry (S. x chenaultii, a hybrid of another native).


I will keep looking for the shrub of my childhood memories. Meanwhile in dealing with suckering characters like Niagara's and yours, JG, I will both cut them back periodically -- keep those canes from splaying so wide they touch the ground and become runners -- and digging out the wayward suckers. I will try to do it each spring but have no qualms about taking control whenever!


Snowberry's really no worse than Ural false spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) and Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica). Both need to have suckers reined in but I wouldn't trade them in, not until I am truly unable to garden and can't con someone into digging for me. I know no substitute for Sorbaria's butterfly attraction and long bloom, and sweetspire's late, intense fall color is unmatchable.

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