If you’re a looking for a hardy shrub that not only adds aesthetic value to your landscape but also produces delicious fruit, consider planting the Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia). This shrub is native to British Columbia, the Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and western Ontario and is renowned for its great-tasting berries, which are excellent for both eating right off the bush and adding to your baking.

Let’s delve into why the Saskatoon might be the perfect native species to plant to rewild your backyard!

Why Grow Saskatoons?

Delicious and Versatile Berries

The highlight of the Saskatoon bush is undoubtedly its fruit. The berries are dark purple, pome-type fruits that are highly valued for their taste and versatility. Whether you enjoy them fresh off the bush or incorporate them into your favourite recipes, Saskatoon berries are a delightful treat.

Hardy and Adaptable

Saskatoons are exceptionally hardy, thriving in a variety of growing conditions and tolerating partial shade. They are well-suited for most soils, especially those rich in organic matter. Good drainage is crucial, as these plants dislike wet roots. While they prefer slightly acidic soils, they can still grow reasonably well in alkaline soils with a pH of up to 7.5.

Growth and Maintenance

Plant Characteristics

  • Height: 3 metres (10 feet)
  • Spread: 2.4 metres (8 feet)
  • Moisture: Normal
  • Light: Partial shade to full sun
  • Fall Colour: Orange to red

Unique Foliage and Berries

Saskatoon leaves are unique, with an oval to round shape and toothy margins on the upper half. This distinctive foliage adds visual interest throughout the growing season. The berries, which ripen unevenly, vary in size depending on the cultivar. Their dark purple colour makes them easy to spot and harvest.

Low Maintenance and Fast Growth

One of the appealing aspects of Saskatoon is its fast growth rate and low maintenance requirements. While the plant has a relatively short lifespan, it compensates with a medium level of suckering, which helps it propagate and fill out its designated space. 

Growing Tips for Saskatoon

  1. Choose the Right Spot: Plant your Saskatoon in an area with partial shade to full sun. Ensure the soil is well-drained to prevent root rot.
  2. Soil Preparation: Enrich the soil with plenty of organic matter. If your soil is more alkaline, you can still grow Saskatoons, but they thrive best in slightly acidic conditions.
  3. Watering: Maintain normal moisture levels. Avoid waterlogged soil, as Saskatoons prefer dry roots.
  4. Pruning and Maintenance: Minimal pruning is needed, making this a low-maintenance shrub. Regularly check for suckers and manage them as necessary.

How to Plant Your Saskatoon Seedling

  1. Plant your seedling
    • Ensure the risk of major frosts is in the past (tip: do not plant your seedlings until people in your community are planting their gardens).
    • Place the seedling in the hole with the stem standing straight up and with the root collar at ground level.
  2. Water and fill the hole
    • Moisten the soil and fill your hole back in around the roots.
    • Press firmly on the soil around the stem.
    • Cover the roots completely.
  3. Water the area
    • Water thoroughly after planting.
    • Take special care watering your seedlings in poorly drained soil.
    • Do not over-water your seedlings. Stop before standing puddles form.
    • Seedlings should go through a wet-and-dry soil cycle.
    • Allow the soil to dry down before watering again.
  4. Protect your trees from pests
    • Take special precautions to keep deer, rabbits, mice, and other pests away from your seedlings.

Happy Rewilding!

The Saskatoon is a versatile and hardy shrub that offers both aesthetic and culinary benefits. Its delicious berries, attractive foliage, and adaptability to various growing conditions make it an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a productive and beautiful native plant to their landscape. With proper care and the right growing conditions, your Saskatoon bush will thrive, providing you with bountiful harvests of tasty berries for years to come.

Project Forest has planted Saskatoons as part of the following rewilding projects: