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Transplanting Saskatoon Berry Bushes
Sometimes, things grow where we don’t want them to. Or we misjudge the grown size of small plants and crowd them in too closely together. This new growth ends up with something needing to be moved. Here’s how we transplant Saskatoon berry bushes without killing them.
Where we live, Saskatoon Berry bushes (also known as Serviceberry, Juneberry, or their scientific name, Amelanchier alnifolia) are native to the area. They grow throughout North America, including many parts of Canada including across the Canadian prairies to the southern Yukon (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and as far into the northwest territories as Alaska.
Where we live, Saskatoon Berry (also known as Serviceberry) bushes are native to the area. These berries make wonderful pies and also turn into delicious jams and jellies!
Information on Saskatoon Berry Bushes
Note: This article focuses more on transplanting Saskatoon bushes. If you want more in depth information on Saskatoons, head over here to How to Grow Saskatoon Berries. There you’ll find more general information, like:
- health benefits and nutrients like protein, fiber, and antioxidants
- pruning branches and leaves
- differences between Saskatoons and blueberries
- flavor of Saskatoon berries
- growth of bushes depending on cultivar
- growing Saskatoons as a privacy hedge
- and more
How to Transplant Saskatoon Berry Bushes
But sometimes, I need to move the actual bush itself. The ideal time to do this in the late Fall, once the rains start again. You can transplant in very early Spring but you really need to make sure the bush gets lots of water.
I found this wild Saskatoon Berry bush in my Barn pathway flower bed. I know I didn’t plant it there, but there it is all the same.
Never wanting to turn away free food, especially a perennial fruit shrub, I decided to move it.
You can see it was getting overrun with the other plantings around it. I have had this flower bed in place for a couple of years now, and I had planted the perennials quite close together.
Now, everything is growing and some things are getting a bit crowded.
Can you see the berry bush? It’s growing among the iris, goutweed and poppy plants. Poor thing is actually stuck in there. Iris bulbs are big and gangly.
(It wasn’t surprising that I damaged some bulbs while trying to get the berry bush out.)
It actually has a few berries on it. I don’t remember seeing this last year when I was weeding, so I don’t know how long it has been hiding here.
Preparing a Planting Hole for a Saskatoon Bush
Saskatoon bushes like to grow in full sun but they will also grow in filtered shade. This makes them ideal to grow as a lower canopy under tall trees such as the aspen and spruce we have here.
I got the new hole dug and watered really well before digging the bush out. It’s important to do this, so the plant can have water to its roots as soon as it is planted.
Transplanting Saskatoon berries should be done as quickly as possible, so the shrub doesn’t go in shock.
Once the large hole was dug, I added more composted manure to the spot. I only have this one chance to get some really good compost or organic fertilizer down underneath the plant. You may also want to add some mulch for weed control.
Once the plant is in the ground, all I can do is top dress around the plant, so I like to make sure the hole gets a good amount of manure before planting.
Although the berry bush is quite small, the base of the plant and the root system look great. Lots of roots and nice and long too.
Planting the Berry Bush
I quickly took this picture, then soaked the roots and planted the bush upright right away. You don’t want these roots to dry out. The best thing to have done would be to take a bunch of the soil medium around the rootball along with the bush.
I couldn’t do that because this little bush was so crowded among other perennials. It took a fair amount of careful digging and prying to get this berry bush out of the ground.
Here’s the bush in its new home, right at the top of the Barn pathway flower bed. Once I got it planted, I made a moat around it with soil.
This will help the water remain around the trunk of the bush and make sure it gets down to the roots.
The #1 Tip for Keeping a Transplanted Saskatoon Bush Alive and Healthy
The most important thing I need to do now is water it every day from now until late Fall. If we have some rainy weather, that will help, but I need to make sure this shrub never dries out. Never. Ever.
This is why it’s best to transplant in the late Fall or very early Spring. That way, the rains will help make your job easier.
You won’t have to water every day, but you will need to keep up with the weather forecast. Remember, never let that soil dry out! And, keep the weeds away from the shrub.
Now that this is planted, I am looking forward to a few years from now. By that time, this small shrub will have grown into a small tree, bearing fruit for us every year.
I can prune the lower branches out over the next few years, so the bush will grow taller with branches higher up. Want to learn some great pruning tips for shrubs and trees?
That way, we can still see the perennial flowers in the flower bed from our porch and inside the kitchen.
And over time, this bush will hopefully become large and start producing some suckers growing from the dirt. Then, those can be dug up and you will have more young plants.
Here’s what this small bush should look like in three or four years, lots of Spring flowers! Aren’t they pretty?
Now all the Saskatoon bush needs is moisture. Lots of moisture will mean lots of berries.
The flowers should hopefully be followed with loads of beautiful big berries for us to use in pies, fruit crisps and even Saskatoon Berry Wine.
Harvesting the berries usually takes place between late June and early July. If the weather conditions are just right, you will definitely have higher fruit yields.
The perfect amount of moisture, followed by heat during berry production means you are going to be to have a great fruit harvest.
Remember when Transplanting Native Shrubs
Most native shrubs and trees do not like to be transplanted at all, so it’s important to make it as easy on the plant as possible. Try and take as much soil around the roots as possible when you are transplanting Saskatoon berry bushes or any type of shrub.
If you can do it early in the morning or on an overcast day, that is even better. The cooler temperature and lack of direct sun will be better for the plant as it gets moved.
Protecting Transplanted Shrubs from Pests
You may want to place a wire cage around your Saskatoon bush, at least for the first full year. Wildlife loves to nibble on fresh shoots and of course taste the berries too.
Provide protection from deer, mice, rabbits, and moose to get your transplant off to the best start. Depending on the time of year, you may also have to worry about insects as well. Common pests that target these bushes are the Saskatoon sawfly and the apple curculio.
Types of Saskatoon Cultivars
There are different variations of this plant, but here are just a few options to consider.
Diseases to Watch For
Saskatoon bushes are prone to certain types of disease that can harm the plant. Especially when transplanting, it’s important to be on the lookout for these diseases.
- Black leaf (also called witch’s broom)
- Cytospora dieback
- Cankers disease
- Saskatoon-juniper rust
Remember these Tips for Successfully Transplanting Saskatoon Berry Bushes
The best time for transplanting Saskatoon berries is during the fall season. This is when the rain will happen more frequently allowing the bush to take hold properly at the new location. An important key to a successful transplant of a Saskatoon bush is to make sure it gets plenty of water during the transplant process.
This encourages new shoots, and the younger and more vigorous branches tend to produce the best fruit when compared to the previous year’s growth.
Dig out the new hole and add some water to the hole. This will allow the Saskatoon bush to have plenty of water for its roots the moment you bury it in the new hole. Add a good healthy amount of composted manure to the hole before laying the roots into the new hole.
This allows your Saskatoon bush to get plenty of fertilizer and water during the transition stage. We won’t get to access the roots again, because you shouldn’t continuously transplant your berry plants!
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originally published 2016; latest update October 2022