How to prune a serviceberry tree?

Serviceberry Pruning Tips

The serviceberry, also known as the juneberry or shadbush, is a small tree or shrub which is native to the American continent. It is popular as an ornamental garden tree, and as a natural hedgerow tree, protecting animals or ensuring privacy.

The serviceberry is traditionally planted for its ornamental features, which include white flowers in the early spring, and deep purple berries in the late spring and early summer. These fruits are very popular with birds and other wildlife, and they can encourage pollinating insects into the garden, which can help propagate more difficult plants. Serviceberry trees also provide an attractive autumn foliage, with colours ranging from purple to yellow.

Pruning the Serviceberry

The way in which the gardener prunes the serviceberry will depend very much upon what he desires from the tree. The serviceberry is naturally multi-stemmed, but it can be “trained” to have a single trunk through heavy pruning of suckers. The serviceberry is more likely to produce suckers on the trunk and roots than it is to grow upwards, so a gardener wanting height from this serviceberry should consider pruning the tree every few weeks.

Alternatively, the serviceberry is regularly used as a hedgerow tree, and this offers it the perfect opportunity to grow its suckers and become a “clump” bush. In this instance, the tree should be pruned at the top, keeping the serviceberry low and squat, and allowing the suckers to flourish—although prudent gardeners may feel the need to rein in the shoots from time to time.

Serviceberries can also be trained as hedges in formal gardens, which usually requires constant pruning and shaping—however they are rewarding box hedge plants, with impressive fall showing, and can be trained easily with regular pruning.

General Pruning Tips

Serviceberries flourish early in the spring, so it is important to prune the main trunk of the tree early in order to prevent damage. Prune serviceberries in winter, to avoid cutting new growth, and at this time also remove any wood which is older than four years, which helps give the tree a good shape, and encourages it to put forward new buds and flowers.

Serviceberry trees can be pruned drastically to create short bushes, but it also grows in small varieties that do not need to be pruned more than once a year.

Prune the serviceberry using either secateurs or pruning saws – even if there is no evidence of infection, it is a good idea to wipe the blades with bleach between cuts, as this ensures that any infection is not spread. Long-handled secateurs can be used on tall serviceberry trees.

Pruning is also an excellent opportunity for checking the tree for pests and diseases. As a relative of the rose, the Serviceberry is prone to “rust” and cankers. It can also be attacked by a variety of nasty insects such as the pear sawfly and the spider mite. These can be eliminated with soapy water sprays, horticultural oil, or by encouraging natural predators into the garden.

Amelanchier – Pruning, Winter Care and Fertilizing

Amelanchier, Serviceberry, Juneberry

In general, this plant is grown as a “specimen” plant that will need a minimal amount of pruning with age. Pruning, however, can be very important to the overall look of the plant. Only prune in early spring before the plant leafs out. Normally grown as a multi stem tree the number of desired stems should be determined early in the plants development and worked toward while the plant is still young. Crossing, badly formed or damaged branches should be removed back to a main branch. It is best done by removing a few branches a year, over a period of a number of years, until the desired form is obtained.

By fertilizing young trees and shrubs you can increase both the size and the amount of flowers on the plant. Granular, liquid or stake type fertilizers can be used. Granular types should be worked into the soil around the plant at a rate of 2 pounds or 2 pints per 100 square feet of planting bed. An alternative way is to drill or punch 6″ deep holes at the drip line of the plant. Poured into these holes should be a total of 1/4 pound of fertilizer per foot of height or spread of the shrub (divided up and poured evenly between all of the holes). These holes should not be filled with more than 1/3 of the fertilizer and then they should be top filled with soil. This method of fertilization should only be done once a year, and is best done in late fall after leaf drop, or in early spring before bud break.

Liquid fertilizers (such as Miracle Gro) are mixed with water and applied the same as you would water the plant (see product for specific details). This should be done three or four times per year starting in late April and ending in mid July. Stake type fertilizers can be used following the directions on the package. With any of the above techniques a balanced mix should be used, 20-20-20 or 20-30-20 or 18-24-16 or similar. Organic fertilizers, like manure, can also be used with good results. The material should be worked into open soil at a rate of one bushel per one 6′ shrub or 100 sq. ft. of bed area. Rabbits can do a great deal of damage to this plant in the winter. The plants can be protected with a fence formed with hardware cloth (looks like chicken wire but with small square holes). To do this, the plants branches should be tied in towards the center on smaller plants, and a circle of hardware cloth can be placed around the outside. Take care that the fence dose not rub and injure the bark. The base of the hardware cloth should be buried in the soil or mulch. This protection should be installed in late November and removed in mid April. With single stem trees, tree wrap can be useful to keep the sum of the truck but, hardware cloth is still needed to keep the rabbits away.

Pruning a Serviceberry

Read a bit online and/or in tree books about pruning, to get some general ideas in your mind about ways to manage the crown/structure of a woody plant – like a large shrub/small tree category plant like your serviceberry. Then, when recommendations are made here from contributors, you will have a good idea whether they are speaking in regular gardening terms or using more arboricultural and scientific language.
Since you are after habitat and wildlife interest, I’m not going to venture down the ornamental or scientific path with my comments. By your statements, it sounds like you want a healthy dense plant which provides cover for birds and forage in the way of flowering and fruit production.
I wouldn’t do any pruning that removes fruit – which I think I can see in the first image. Let the birds (or you) eat that. Tip prune new growth extensions in early/midsummer before they set next year’s flower buds, and prune back to an outward-facing bud. Encourage growth away from the house (toward sun) and discourage growth toward the house – imminent problem with siding/windows/maintenance. Pruning to elevate the crown above itinerant mowing devices and humans is always a good plan – you don’t want “accidental” damage to branches and stems, or humans.
Otherwise, watch it grow! Moisture in droughty times and average fertility is pretty much all any Amelanchier is after. Maybe a mate – this genus fruits more prolifically when cross-pollination amongst individuals is available.

What Is A Serviceberry: Growing And Care Of Serviceberries

Harvested serviceberry fruit can be a delightful treat and growing serviceberry trees is easy to do. Let’s learn more about the care of serviceberries in the landscape.

What is a Serviceberry?

Serviceberries are trees or bushes, depending on cultivar, with a beautiful natural shape and edible fruit. While all serviceberry fruit is edible, the tastiest fruit is found on the Saskatoon variety.

A member of the genus Amelanchier, serviceberries reward homeowners with a spectacular display of showy white flowers that look like lilacs in the spring, attractive fall foliage and pretty gray bark.

Reaching from six to twenty feet or more at maturity, serviceberries grow in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zones 2 through 9.

Growing Serviceberry Trees

Serviceberries are not overly sensitive to soil type but prefer a pH of 6.0 to 7.8. They also perform best in soil that is lighter and not loaded with clay, as this prevents adequate drainage.

Although they will grow

well in both part shade and full sun, planting in full sun is recommended if you want the best tasting and largest harvest of fruit. Plant trees 9 feet apart as a hedgerow for serviceberry fruit production. Nets are often used to protect fruit from hungry birds.

Care of Serviceberries

Serviceberries enjoy just enough water to keep the soil moist but not saturated. Irrigate when the top 3 or 4 inches of soil feels dry. Care of serviceberries planted in sandy soils requires more frequent watering, as it drains quicker than loamy soil. Trees planted in humid climates will require less water than those in dry climates.

Place a 2-inch layer of mulch around the plant to help with moisture retention and to add a decorative effect. Do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk of the tree. The best time to apply mulch is in the early spring.

Organic fertilizer applied around the drip line in six week intervals during the growing season will keep growing serviceberry trees looking their best.

The serviceberry is in the rose family so it can suffer from the same type of problems as roses do. Be on the lookout for Japanese beetles, spider mites, aphids and leaf miners, as well as borers. Powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot may also occur. To avoid serious problems with insects and disease, keep your serviceberry as healthy as possible.

Pruning Serviceberry Trees and Shrubs

Serviceberries require pruning yearly; late winter or early spring is best before the new leaves appear. Inspect the tree for deadwood, diseased wood and crossed branches.

Use clean and sharp pruners to remove just what is necessary. Leaving some old growth is important, as the flowers form on old wood.

Be sure to dispose of infected limbs properly; don’t put them in the compost pile.

Serviceberry Pie (Yes, you can eat them!)


  1. Make pie crust: Pour flour, salt and sugar into a sifter; sift into a large wide bowl. Cut butter into small pieces over flour. Cut butter into the flour using two knives, your fingertips, or a pastry cutter until mixture resembles wet sand with some pea-sized bits of butter still in it. Stir milk into the flour mixture one Tbsp at a time, stirring lightly until the dough clumps. Spread counter with two pieces of plastic wrap. Remove dough onto the plastic wrap. Pulling the plastic wrap up and around the dough, gently squeeze and gather the dough into a ball. Divide ball in half. Flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  2. Mix sugar and tapioca starch. Toss berries in sugar/tapioca mixture.
  3. Remove one of the dough disks and roll out. Ease dough into a nine-inch pie plate, leaving a little dough overhang. Fill dough with berry mixture. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the sugared berries. Dot with butter.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Roll out second disk of dough. Using a pie-wheel or sharp knife, cut rolled-out dough circle into long strips about 1/2-inch wide. Loosely drape 1/2 of the strips across top of pie, top to bottom leaving small spaces between each strip. Going the other direction, weave remaining 1/2 of the strips over and under the placed strips to make a lattice top. Trim excess dough around pie plate. Crimp edges of pie to make a decorative edge.
  6. Bake pie in lower 1/3 of oven at 400 for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350; move pie to middle of oven and bake for an additional hour to hour and 1/2 until the filling is bubbling thickly up through the lattice. NOTE: Protect the edge of your pie crust with a thin strip of foil or a pie-rim protector if it seems to be browning too quickly.
  7. Remove pie from oven and let it rest for a bit on a rack.

downy serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea

Scientific Name

Amelanchier is an old French name for snowy-mespilus (Amelanchier ovalis); arborea is Latin for “tree-like.”

Common Name

Downy serviceberry is from the grayish, fuzzy or downy emerging leaves, while serviceberry refers to the Appalachian tradition of holding memorial services for the dead that coincided with the blooming of the serviceberries. Serviceberry may be a derivation of the word ‘sarvisberry’ for the resemblance of the fruits to the sarvis tree or European mountain ash fruits. Trees are also called shadbush for the concurrent annual spawning migration of the shad and the blooming of serviceberries.


Downy serviceberry is native to eastern North America. In the wild trees are found along borders of woodlands and stream banks, although it also occurs on hillsides and mountain slopes. In Kentucky, downy service berry occurs frequently in dry to wet woodlands of slopes, plateaus, and bottoms in the Appalachian Plateaus, Inner Low Plateaus, and Mississippi Embayment provinces.


Downy serviceberry is not ranked as a plant of conservation concern by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission.


Growth Habit and Form

Downy serviceberry is a small tree or multi-stemmed large shrub. It has a rounded crown with many small arching, spreading branches. Trees grow 20 to 50 feet in height with a variable spread. Plants can be grown single-trunked or multi-stemmed. Downy serviceberry is relatively short lived. It rarely lives longer than 50 years.


Downy serviceberry leaves resemble those of their close relative, the apple. Leaves are simple, alternate, oblong and 1 to 3 inches long. They are downy beneath and smoother above. The leaves are silvery-gray and fuzzy when first emerging. Summer foliage is dark green. Fall color can vary from yellow to orange to red. Some authorities hold that downy serviceberry is one of the finest small trees for fall coloration.


Downy serviceberry blooms in clouds of white in early spring woods. The 5-petalled, dainty, white flowers bloom in March and April. Flowers hang in elegant clusters from the branches and are 2 to 4 inches in length. The flowers are very ornamental but are at their peak for only a few days, fading just as redbud (Cercis canadensis) steps forward to change the predominant color of the woods from white to rosy pink.


Small, berry-like pomes (fleshy fruits with seed chambers) ripen in June. The fruits turn from green to red to purplish-black and are eaten by wildlife. The seeds are scattered by songbirds and other wildlife.


Young trees are covered with smooth gray bark with lighter vertical fissures, often with a reddish cast. The bark of older trees becomes ridged and furrowed and scaly. The smooth gray bark and artistic branching patterns enhance the winter landscape.

Wild and Cultivated Varieties

Over twenty cultivars are listed by authorities. The cultivar, Autumn Sunset, is recommended for Kentucky. ‘Silver Fountain’ is a large, rounded, weeping form with pendulous branches that reach the ground.


Landscape Use

Downy serviceberry is best used in a naturalistic planting and to attract wildlife. It can be planted singly as a specimen or in groupings. It is one of the finest small trees for fall coloration.

Hardiness Zone

Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.

Growth Rate

Growth rate is medium, 9 to 10 feet in 5 to 8 year period.

Cultivation and Propagation Information

Serviceberries are extremely adaptable to a variety of sites and soils. Growth is best in full sun to light shade and moist, well-drained, acid soils. Transplant balled and burlapped or container grown plants into moist, well-drained, acid soil. Plants can be propagated by sowing seed that have undergone cold stratification, stored 90 to 120 days at 41 degrees F in moist medium.

Diseases and Insects

Downy serviceberry is susceptible to rusts, blights, powdery mildew, leaf minors, leaf spot, borers and scale.

Wildlife Considerations

Serviceberry is a food source for the larvae of tiger butterflies and viceroys. Gypsy moth larvae also feed on downy serviceberry. The fruits provide food for wildlife, including birds, squirrels, black bears, and elk. Serviceberry fruit is probably the best summer fruit for birds. The flowers are pollinated by bees, beetles and butterflies.

Maintenance Practices

Downy serviceberry rarely requires pruning. It is not particularly pollution tolerant and is not reliable under high stress conditions.


Native Americans ate the fruits fresh or dried them for pemmican and cakes.

An extract of the bark was used as an anti-diarrheal medication.

The hard, fine-grained wood is used for tool handles.

The fruits are occasionally used to make serviceberry pies, jams and preserves. Fruits must be picked before birds clean the plants.

Downy serviceberry was introduced into cultivation around 1746

Canada serviceberry

Tree & Plant Care

10 to 20 feet high and wide; multi-stemmed shrub.
Best in part shade condition, tolerant of sun with adequate soil moisture.
Great plant for wet sites.
Colony-forming, spreading by sucker growth. Prune to control size.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity, salt.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the United States.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Red fruit is attractive to birds.
Larval host for striped hairstreak butterfly.

Bark color and texture

Bark is light gray and relatively smooth, with lighter vertical lines.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves; oval and about 2 inches long.
Dark green in summer, changing to orange and red in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White flowers in loose clusters in spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Red, berry-like fruits (pomes); edible.

Cultivars and their differences

Prince William Canada serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis ‘Prince William’ ): 8 to 10 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide; upright multi-stemmed shrub; orange-red fall color.

Rainbow Pillar® Canada serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis ‘Glennform’ ): 20 feet high by 6 feet wide; upright form; fall color is a mix of red, yellow and orange.

Downy Serviceberry

Additional information:
The name serviceberry comes from funeral or memorial service. This tree flowers very early in spring, about two weeks before dogwood. Legend has it that when the serviceberry was flowering it was finally warm enough to dig a grave and have a funeral service. Serviceberry is also known as sarvisberry. “Sarvis” is the Appalachian pronunciation of service. All the serviceberries make good small landscape trees or multistemmed shrubs. Downy serviceberry is most effective when used in a naturalistic setting or with an evergreen background.

Serviceberry is a common understory tree in southeastern forests of North America. The wood of serviceberry is among the heaviest in the U.S., and would be more valuable if the trees grew larger. Serviceberry’s fruit is used to make pies and sweetbreads and can be dried like raisins. Cherokees used serviceberry tea to aid digestion, and children who had worms were given baths in serviceberry tea. Native Americans used the tree’s straight wood to make arrow shafts.

Francois Michaux wrote of serviceberries being available in Philadelphia markets, but only children bought them. Serviceberries have good fall color and the bark is grayish and ornamental. The bark of downy serviceberry often has a reddish cast. It becomes ridged and furrowed as the tree ages.

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