Great Plants for Northern Gardens: Serviceberry

amelenchier leavis flower

Flowers of Allegheny serviceberry are a sweet, spring note to the plant. (Photos courtesy of Bailey Nurseries Inc.)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier) is a very hardy Minnesota native plant that can be grown as a large shrub or a small tree. Sometimes called juneberry, this is one of the great plants for northern gardens because it requires little care, is highly adaptable and provides structure and three-season interest to the garden.

There are several types of serviceberry native to our region and some of them have been hybridized to create wonderful garden plants. Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier  laevis) is common in northern Minnesota. It has a narrow form and grows more than 25 feet tall. Another species serviceberry is shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), which is generally shorter (10 to 15 feet) and wider (10 feet across) than Allegheny serviceberry. Both plants offer interesting structure and bright fall color.

Apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandifolia) is a popular species that includes several named varieties. These all grow 15 to 25 feet tall and can be pruned to either multi-stemmed shrubs or small trees. 'Autumn Brilliance' gets its name from its bright red fall foliage. Other cultivars include 'Princess Diana' and 'Cole's Select' serviceberry.

In addition to fall color, serviceberries generally have a sweet white flower in spring and -- as the name suggests -- a bluish red berry in late summer through winter. The berries are edible, but they are especially prized by birds, including American goldfinches, brown thrashers and bluejays.

regent serviceberry hedge

Regent serviceberries make an attractive hedge.

If you do not have room for a full-size serviceberry, you might consider 'Regent' (Amelanchier alnifolia 'Regent'), a 3 to 6 foot tall shrub with the flowers, fall color and the form of serviceberry but in a more diminutive size. These serviceberries are sometimes grown in hedges to great effect.

Serviceberry grows well in full sun to part shade sites in moist, well-drained soil. (Wondering what kind of soil you have? Send a sample to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab.) This popular native plant is available at many Upper Midwest nurseries and garden centers.

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  1. Diane Callahan on March 29, 2019 at 12:35 am

    Is regent service berry salt tolerate, it would be grown 5 ft above road?

  2. Sydney on March 11, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    When is the best time of year to plant a service berry tree in MN?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on March 12, 2021 at 3:36 pm

      Spring is a great time to plant trees — you can also plant in fall. Either will work.

  3. Barb on March 25, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    I have big plans to convert my front yard into a food forest, and being it is in a village that has a highway and sidewalks, it is important that it look good! I have some trees started which sit back about ten feet from the sidewalk–three paw paw “sticks”, an Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry and a Stewartia. My plan is to plant Regent serviceberries as a hedge in front of those trees and about four feet from the sidewalk. My question is will it become too tall? I’m reading that the range is from four to six feet in height. I do plan to have a break in the hedge of about six feet where I’ll have a round topped arbor/trellis, but I want it to be friendly looking and not like I’m trying to keep people out. Behind the hedge, I’ll plant a variety of trees and shrubs: medlar, quince, mulberry, currants, strawberries, honeyberries…I want it to add some privacy, stop the leaves that find my property from the entire neighborhood and encourage birds. I live in 5A Vermont. Does Regent tend to stay closer to four foot or six foot? If it is six foot, would that be a poor choice for the front. I have 112′ of road frontage to cover. It is south facing. Thank you for any advice you can offer. I’ve been looking at pictures and it’s hard to get an idea of scale from what I’ve found.

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