Description: Bears clusters of white blossoms followed by showy, deep red berries that persist through winter; bright red fall color
Habit: Grows to 10 feet high and 5 feet wide; upright, vase-shaped shrub; may sucker to form colonies
Culture: Prefers full sun to part shade and average, well-drained soil; tolerates boggy soils
Hardiness: Cold hardy to USDA Zone 4
Origin: North America
Attributes: Fall color, showy berries, rain garden
This attractive and vigorous North American shrub grows in bogs, swamps, and moist forests from Nova Scotia to Florida and Texas, especially along the coastal areas. During the 18th century, this species was often classified as Sorbus arbutifolia but was sometimes thought to be a kind of pear (hence Pyrus arbutifolia). Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon considered it a type of Medlar, calling it “Arbutus-leaved Medlar, Mespilus arbutifolia” in the 1806 edition of his American Gardener’s Calendar. This very desirable native plant boasts multi-season interest and has few pests and diseases. The fruits are edible but very astringent.
Bare root planting tips:
- If you can't plant immediately, store your plant in a cool location and keep the roots moist or pot in a container with a nursery potting mix from your local garden center.
- Before planting, let the roots soak for several hours as you prepare the site. You'll want to dig a large enough hole so the root mass can spread out and the plant is at the same soil level as when it was growing in the nursery.
- Once planted, water it in well and wait a month before fertilizing. Mulching will help to maintain moisture and raise soil temperatures for faster growth.