Silverberry: A Hotel for birds

Often Central Texas homeowners would come into our nursery on a quest for ‘the perfect plant.’ They want an evergreen that will make an effective screen, while being a fast grower that also thrives in shade or blazing sun without any extra watering … and smells good.

This is a tall order. But believe it or not there is a plant that fits the bill – and its name is silverberry. 

This beauty, known also as Russian olive (or more officially – Elaeagnus fruitlandii) can grow to a height of 8 to 10 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet if left un-pruned. Its growth habit and the speed of this growth makes silverberry an obvious choice as a privacy screen.

The leaves are a blue-ish green on top, and lighter silver on the bottom. These are covered with small brown scales with silvery flecks. Highly attractive!

Silverberry blossoms in late winter and early spring with small, fragrant cream flowers. The blossoms ripen into a small, dark reddish fruit that’s very popular with the birds. So popular is this plant with our avian friends that one fellow gardener refers to her silverberry as a ‘hotel for birds.’

Personally, I can attest to this plant’s winter hardiness and tolerance to our capricious climate.

In 2001 we moved into a house in northern Hays County. There was a pair silverberries on the property,  both planted near trees. Thirteen years later, through blistering heat, droughts and perishing frosts, they continue to stand tall, and flourish without any watering or extra care. They even made it through that 10 degree frosty night that happened back in January, 2010.

Looking for a versatile plant that can take what Central Texas can give? Silverberry just might be the answer. It gets my vote for plant of the month. Happy Gardening, Everyone!

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