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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - November 11, 2010

From: Homewood, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Planting, Pruning
Title: Will suckering of coralberry be a problem in Homewood AL?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am considering planting Symphoricarpos orbiculatus in the yard of the home I just purchased. I am interested in attracting wildlife to my yard and covering over a stump with a 3' diameter. My only concern is its suckering habits. Will surrounding the plants with landscape edging be sufficient to contain them? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry) is a native to Alabama. From our Native Plant Database, here is a comment on its suckering properties: "Coralberry forms extensive colonies and spreads by rooting at the nodes where it touches the ground." A landscape barrier of stone, etc. would not communicate anything to the plant, only marking, for you, the spot beyond which you did not want the plant to sucker. As the long, supple branches arch over, they will ignore whatever barrier you have put in and droop to the ground outside it, where they will root.

We would suggest that you use tip pruning to keep those branches from crossing your barrier. We think a barrier would still be a good idea, as it will help you remember where you DON'T want the plant to go. This is not something you can go off and forget about, just pruning once a year or something like that. Once those suckers have rooted in the ground, you have another shrub growing, probably where you don't want it, and you will be fighting with the suckers from the new bush as well as the old.

For the purposes you have stated, attracting wildlife and covering an old stump, we believe this is an ideal plant, but you will have to stay after it, year round. Just about any plant is going to try to reproduce itself, once it has found a good place to grow. The birds that eat the berries and drop the seeds somewhere else, the wind that blows seeds to a different location are other ways you can get more bushes. Our database page says Coralberry makes a good woodland understory plant. If that is not the yard you had in mind, we suggest you select something else.

 

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