Why doesn’t my shadblow shrub (Amelanchier canadensis) ever produce berries? It blooms beautifully every year. I read that it needs to be pollinated by a different variety, so I planted the serviceberry Amelanchier alnifolia, but still no berries. What am I doing wrong?
The serviceberry (Amelanchier) is a small to medium ornamental tree or shrub with an upright oval to upright clump habit. It is a native plant that has four-season value in the landscape. It has showy white flowers in the spring, medium green leaves that cast dappled shade in summer, and fall color that ranges from yellow to orange to red. Typically, it boasts edible, round fruits that exhibit color transitions from green to yellow to red to blue to purple to black. The fruit ripens in June and attracts birds and squirrels that sometimes devour the fruit before they are completely ripe.
These plants can handle full sun to full shade, but prefer partial shade and moist, well drained, rich, organic, and acidic soil. Although these are the preferred soil conditions, they will tolerate just about any soil and pH except very dry or poorly drained, wet sites.
There are several Amelanchier species and hybrids, and it is often difficult to distinguish among them. These plants are propagated primarily by seeds or rooted stem cuttings. The flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees. They are self-fertile and don’t require a partner plant, although the addition of a second species should improve the berry production.
Now, why isn’t there any fruit on your plants? It could be that your shrubs are not mature enough. Some fruit-bearing trees and shrubs have to be a certain age before bearing fruit. Some also have alternating light-bearing and heavy-bearing years. Heavy fruiting takes away from the flower production the following year.
All that being said, it is most likely that the birds are enjoying the berries before you even get a chance to see them. A visit to your local garden center to purchase a fruit tree net may prove to be the answer. Throw the net over the shrub at bloom time and then harvest berries for your own enjoyment. However, if serviceberry jams, jellies, and pies are not your goal, don’t worry, just be happy for the birds.