Coralberry (Symphoricarpos Orbiculatus)

To fully appreciate the Coralberry you need to see it in the winter landscape.  Or actually you need to observe it year round.  It seems to always be doing something special.

Coralberry is a ground cover, border or under-story plant.  It’s taller than most ground covers, normally growing to 1-1/2 to 2 feet.  They are useful for erosion control and attract valuable wildlife to the garden.  You won’t have to worry about birds spreading the seeds all over town because they don’t germinate easily in warmer climates.  Although, it has been known to happen a time or two.

Coralberry will be difficult to grow south of San Antonio and West of the hill country.  Other closely related varieties are native to the limestone soils of West Texas such as Guadalupe Snowberry S. Guadalupensis and Fragrant Snowberry  S. Longiflorus.

coralberry flowers Coralberry (Symphoricarpos Orbiculatus)

"Coralberry Flowers"

Spring

In the beginning of spring the coralberry will begin to grow new leaves.  Pink to purple colored berries from the previous year are still hanging on.  The combination of the light green leaves makes the color of the berries pop and gives you a good, early spring accent.

Eventually the berries drop off and new tiny green buds will start to form at the nodes.  Flowers of the coralberry are about 1/4 inch in size and off white with pink accents.

Illinoiswildflowers.info mentions that the flowers attract bees, flies and wasps.  I only remember seeing bees on the flowers last year, but I’m going to make sure to be more observant of them this year.  Have you seen the flowers attracting wasps?

Make sure to fertilize before new growth begins in early spring.

Summer

As summer approaches mulch your coralberries to keep necessary watering to a minimum.  Since the coralberry is seen as far north as cold hardiness zone 4, it is important to place this plant in a location where it won’t bake during the summer.  It will almost always do best in part shade to shade.  However, in wet climates the leaves will develop powdery mildew in the shade.

Fall

The berries on the coral berry really start to catch the eye in fall as they ripen to a bright purple-pink color in October.  At first frost the leaves will also start to change color.

2011 01 08 16.32.14 1024x768 Coralberry (Symphoricarpos Orbiculatus)

"Coralberry in January"

Winter

After a hard freeze the leaves will fall off.  The berries stand alone and become a focal point of the bare winter garden.

Planting

Transplant coralberries in cool weather, but container grown plants can be planted all year.  Divide root sprouts from the base of established plants.  Till 4 inches of compost into the 4 to 6 foot diameter around your plant and mulch the bed.  While you are getting the plant established, water once a week.  Especially when the temperature is over 85.

Cuttings taken from firm softwood and semi-hardwood will root easily.  Take them from mid-summer through fall.  Cut 4 to 6 inches with firmer wood towards the base.

Care

Water established plants about once every two weeks in temperatures above 70.

Alkaline soils can cause chlorosis in coralberries.  Fertilize with iron and sulphur in the summer to keep the leaves from turning yellow.

Prune coralberries if you want to keep them low and bushy.  Once or twice a year should keep them at knee height which is what I prefer if I’m using them as a ground cover.  If your plants get too leggy cut them to the ground in winter.

Plant Characteristics

Coralberry has been classified as a shrub by some, including the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center which states that it can grow as high as 4 to 6 feet.  I have seen a 4 foot tall coralberry, but the majority of the ones I see are about 1-1/2 feet to 2 feet tall.

The Wasowskis classify it as a ground cover in their book Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region, most likely because it will spread by rhizomes and covers a large area easily.

  • Perennial
  • Shrub / Ground Cover
  • Deciduous
  • Part-shade to shade
  • Usually seen around 2 feet tall but can grow to 6 feet.
  • Deer Resistant

Are you growing any Coralberries?

I have been growing coralberries for about a year.  If you have any advice, or feel I have left anything out, please take a moment to leave a comment.

I would also greatly appreciate any photos you might have.  I will include them in the post with your name and any other information you would like.  You may contact me at Texasgardeninginfo@gmail.com.

pixel Coralberry (Symphoricarpos Orbiculatus)

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