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Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry: a Tree for all Seasons

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, PrettyPurpleDoor.com

From early spring blooms to edible berries in the summer to fiery red fall foliage to branches that catch falling snow, the Autumn Brilliance® Serviceberry is truly a tree for all seasons.

And if this multi-season interest isn’t enough, it’s also native to a good portion of the eastern US and southeast Canada! Topping out at 25′ high, this tree is petite enough to fit into any small garden and comes in a single and multi-stem variety! It’s not hard to see why I love this tree as much as I do.

So, if you’re considering planting this beauty, keep on reading so I can convince you exactly why you’d be silly to wait another day.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, PrettyPurpleDoor.com
The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry boasts 4 season interest. From flowers to berries to fiery red to beautiful bark, this tree gives you a lot of bang for the buck.

4 Seasons of the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

A hybrid cross between native serviceberries, downy (A. arborea) and Allegheny (A. laevis), Autumn Brilliance serviceberry is an ornamental tree that grows in full-partial sun to about 20-25′ tall and wide. It can be purchased as a single-stem or multi-stem variety and is adaptable to most soil types. It’s also fairly drought tolerant once established.

Autumn Brilliance truly does have 4-season interest, which is a rarity for such a “small” tree that will fit into almost any yard. It blooms VERY early (late April) with showy white flowers before the foliage appears. Edible berries (juneberries) taste great and attract birds and wildlife in June. Autumn Brilliance glows fiery orange-red in autumn, lighting up your landscape. In winter, an attractive branching habit and silvery-grey, smooth bark truly make this a tree for all seasons. 

Serviceberry facts

  • Scientific Name: Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’
  • Common Names: Juneberry, Saskatoon, Shadbush, Shadwood, Shadblow, Sugarplum, Wilk-Plum, Chuckley Pear, Serviceberry, Apple Serviceberry, Sarvisberry, Sarvis
  • Zones: 3-8
  • Sun: Full Sun – Part Sun
  • Soil: Tolerant of a variety of soil, but prefers well-drained, rich moist soil
  • Root System: Surface roots are non-invasive and usually not a problem. Considered “Sewer Safe”
  • Size: 20-25′ high x 15-20′ wide
  • Growth Rate: Moderate; 9-10 feet in 5-8 years (see photos)
  • Seasons of interest: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
  • Varieties: Single Stem & Multi-Stem
  • Shape: Rounded
  • Lifespan: 40-60 years
  • Purchase an Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry online

Serviceberry blooms in early spring before the foliage appears

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree in Spring
Serviceberry has beautiful white blooms in early spring before the foliage appears

The serviceberry tree blooms with white flowers in the early spring before it even has leaves on it!  The blooms note one of the first signs of spring. But, the blooms quickly fade (in 1-2 weeks), and oval shaped leaves emerge coppery-red, becoming rich green throughout the growing season.

Serviceberry trees have edible summer berries (aka juneberries)

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree in Summer
Serviceberry in the summer (edible june berries)

In the summer, the Autumn Brilliance® Serviceberry tree produces sweet purplish berries that you can eat! They kind of taste like a mix between an apple and a blueberry. But, you will have to fight the birds if you want some of the berries because they absolutely LOVE them, too!

Fiery fall foliage of the Autumn Brilliance

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree in Autumn
Serviceberry in the fall

The Autumn Brilliance gets its name for the fiery show it puts on in the fall The fall color is dramatic and outstanding — fire-engine red.

Serviceberry’s Standout winter bark and structure

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree in Winter
Serviceberry in Winter

The bark is smooth and light gray and looks really lovely throughout the winter when there are no leaves.

Autumn Brilliance is also available as a single stem tree (like mine) or if you are looking for even more winter interest there’s a multi-stemmed variety.

autumn brilliance serviceberry single stem and multi stem varieties
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry comes in both single stem and multi stem varieties

Quick tip: If you are looking for some ideas / tips for choosing the perfect front yard tree, check out this post. ?

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Never know what to plant together? Find out with this FREE Plant Pairing Guide and become a pro at combining plants for the best garden design possible!

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Cost of Serviceberry Tree

I didn’t want to get a dinky little tree and have to wait years for it to look half decent, especially in my front yard. So, I sprung for a larger, more established tree right off the bat.

The Serviceberry I purchased was already pretty tall — about 12′ high! I paid about $250 for this tree. Here are some prices you can expect:

Size of TreeApprox. Price
3-4′ Height$85
4-5′ Height$125
8-10′ Height$200
12′ Height$250
All prices are approximate estimates

Planting a Serviceberry Tree

Getting my Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry home was the very first step. Luckily, I used a local nursery and they were able to load the tree into my neighbor Tony’s truck for us.  

Here’s my tree parked in the driveway after we took it home from the nursery.

My friends at the nursery recommended digging a hole that’s just shy of the height of the root ball, but 4x width of the root ball. So, we ended up digging a hole about 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep to accommodate the new tree.

Tony used a pick ax to dig through my rocky clay soil. I supervised 🙂

Slowly and carefully lower the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry into the new hole. Try not to damage the limbs or the root.  They also advised me to leave the tree in the burlap planting. So, this is what we did. I held the tree steady and tried to keep it level while Tony back-filled the dirt.  Make sure you plant the tree so that the rootball is just a tiny bit above ground level. Planting it too deep is a common mistake and will often kill a young tree.

Caring for your Serviceberry Tree

Mulching

Cover the base of the tree and surrounding area with a 3″ layer of mulch to keep the roots cool. The mulch also helps the soil to retain moisture and suppresses the growth of weeds with can compete with the tree for water and nutrients.

Watering

Be sure to water the Serviceberry regularly, especially the first year or two after planting. A general rule of thumb is to apply 10 gallons of water for every inch of trunk diameter when you water. 

For easier watering, I recommend grabbing a Treegator (Amazon link). The Treegator is a slow-release watering bag that wraps around the tree trunk. It saves time and takes a lot of the guesswork out of watering. Slow watering your plants helps them to establish strong roots, too.

Pruning Serviceberry Trees

Serviceberries require annual pruning to maintain an open canopy. This allows sufficient light penetration and air movement. Pruning also helps rejuvenate the shrub and stimulates the production of more fruit. The best time to prune is late winter or early spring is best before the new growth appears.

For the first 3 years, only prune weak or damaged branches. The tree flowers on stems that are 2-4 years old so keep this in mind when pruning. Inspect the tree for deadwood, diseased wood and crossed branches and prune those first. Use clean and sharp pruners to remove just what is necessary.

How to Fertilize Serviceberry Trees

For the best berry production, feed serviceberry shrubs with organic 5-3-3 fertilizer at six-week intervals between early April and the end of October. Scatter the fertilizer evenly around the shrubs’ drip lines — the place on the soil where rain falls from their outermost leaves. Feed at the rate of 1 cup for every 1 foot of the plants’ spread.

Pros & Cons of the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Overall the Serviceberry is a fantastic tree. In my opinion, the pros of having this tree heavily outweigh the cons. But, if you’re curious, here are some of the pitfalls.

Pros of ServiceberryCons of Serviceberry
Native to Eastern North AmericaNot deer resistant
Attracts birds and butterfliesProduces root suckers
4-season interestShort flower bloom period (about 2 weeks)
Not many pestsCan be affected by aphids, spider mites and bark beetles
Fairly disease resistantA few diseases may affect the leaves
Shallow, non-invasive root system
Unique / less common choice
Compact size – great for home landscapes
Tasty fruit
Single-stem and multi-stem varieities

Native to eastern North America

Serviceberry trees are native to eastern North America, which is always a huge pro in my opinion. Not only are you adding a beautiful tree to your landscape, but you’ll be providing food and habitat for wildlife. Serviceberries offer fruit, nectar and edible foliage for birds, butterflies and other mammals. Skunk, fox and chipmunks enjoy the berries while deer and elk enjoy the foliage.

Native plants and trees also require very little to no maintenance once they are established.

Quick Tip: In this article you can learn more about the difference between native and non-native plant species.

Attracts Birds & Butterflies

Many birds take advantage of the fruit including chickadees, juncos, bluebirds, goldfinches, orioles, tanagers and more.

Butterflies, particularly spring azures make use of the nectar and the plant serves as a host to swallowtail larvae. The flowers can also attract beneficial insects. 

Not Deer Resistant

As is true with many native plants and trees, Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is not deer resistant. Deer enjoy snacking on the foliage of this tree.

Root Suckers

You should be aware that this tree is prone to suckers. This is common for many fruit trees. Root suckers are vigorous vertical stems that can grow off the tree’s root system. Suckers can occur in both the single stem and multi-stemmed varieties of the Serviceberry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITojaP3F8rw

If you’ve never come across root suckers before, you may want to watch this video about how to remove root suckers. I personally don’t have a problem with them. To me, the pros of this tree far outweigh the hour or so I spend caring for it each year. But, I wanted to mention it in case its a concern for you.

Bloom Period

If you’re looking for a really long-blooming tree, the Autumn Brilliance might not be right for you. The beautiful white blossoms are very showy but blooms only last about two weeks. I love that it blooms in early spring when not much else is going on in the garden (think daffodil season, which is late April for me).

Afterwards, the foliage fills in and you’ll have to wait until June for some edible berry interest. So, while it is showy and it does bloom, it’s not a very long-blooming tree. I think that the other seasons of interest make up for it, though.

Pests

Birds are honestly the worst “threat” to your serviceberry fruit. They really love to eat the berries. I don’t mind sharing but if you want to harvest a lot of fruit from your tree you should cover the tree. Try draping the branches with bird netting to protect the ripening fruit.

Aphids, spider mites and bark beetles can also be a problem with native serviceberry, but I haven’t found them to be a problem with the Autumn Brilliance variety.

Diseases

There are a handful of diseases that can affect serviceberries (just like any tree or shrub). Again, I’ve found this variety to be very disease resistant. Early detection and pruning are always the best control options. A few diseases to be on the lookout for are:

  • Entomosporium leaf and berry spot: small, angular brown discolorations on the leaves, often with a uellow ring around the spot.
  • Saskatoon-Juniper rust: yellow spots and swellings on leaves and fruit, followed by yellow, spikey outgrowths from these locations.
  • Powdery mildew: white dust on the leaves and stems.

Root System of the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Serviceberry root systems are shallow and are not considered invasive. This variety is also a recommended tree for planting near sewer lines by University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

A study conducted on the Root Dimensions of Landscape Tree Cultivars (Gerhold and Johnson) observed entire rootsystems of 46 trees found Autumn Brilliance to have one of the most shallow root systems of trees studied. The deepest root depth found was 25cm (less than 10in) with a spread of 198cm (78in) along the row and 150cm (60in) across the row.

Root Depth Gerhold and Johnson: Root Dimensions of Cultivars
The Autumn Brilliance® Serviceberry root depths were the most shallow in the 2003 46-tree study conducted by Gerhold and Johnson titled Root Dimensions of Landscape Cultivars

Planting under/beneath a Serviceberry tree

Other plants, such as perennials that prefer partial shade, can easily be planted under serviceberries because of their shallow, non-invasive root systems.

There honestly aren’t many cons to planting this tree. It’s really disease resistant, has non-invasive roots, a compact size. It also isn’t used as often as it should be… making it a unique tree to add to your landscape!

Quick tip: If you’re still undecided about the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, check out some of my favorite ornamental trees for front yards. I’m sure you’ll find something over there that you like!

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry photo gallery

I get many questions about the growth of the tree, so here are some photos I’ve taken over time! View my serviceberry tree photo journal.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree Growth Rate
Here’s a growth comparison of the autumn brilliance serviceberry from 2013-2019.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry in Bloom
Here is my serviceberry in full bloom on April 20, 2020.

Wrapping Up

Overall I’m really happy with my decision to put the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry tree in my front yard. It’s grown each year and the color and four season interest does not disappoint. If you can’t find one locally, you can order your own right from this website.

In early spring, enjoy the beautiful white blooms of your serviceberry tree before the leaves even appear. Then, in June enjoy the edible berries if you can fend off the birds who absolutely love them, too. This tree will not disappoint with its fiery fall foliage and certainly makes a statement with its unusual bark color and beautiful growing habit.

Overall, the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry tree is a true standout in the garden and one of my top picks for ornamental trees for your front yard.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree Guide
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15 Comments

  1. Thanks for all the information. I’m trying to figure out when to plant it. It’s a little over a foot tall, bare root, and in the past week has grown a few leaves at the top. I live in zone 5A and we still have some patchy snow on the ground. Can I plant it yet? Thanks for the help!

    1. Hi Jacalyn, no don’t plant it yet if you are in 5A. Wait until temperatures are above freezing, especially overnight. My mom always said it’s best to wait until after memorial day! But, if the temps get a bit warmer and you don’t think it will dip below freezing anymore, that’s when you can go for it. Then afterwards if there’s a chance of frost just make sure you cover the tree overnight.

  2. I bought a serviceberry tree,when I use to go down to the farm my grama n I woul go out an pick (servis] berries for pies an jelly an jus tto eat.I was wondering if I also can eat the berries off this tree. Please let me know

    1. Yes you can eat the berries! To me they taste like a mix between a blueberry and an apple if that makes sense 🙂 I’m sure they make delicious jelly!

  3. Hello, thanks for the informative posts. I bought an Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry in memory of my late brother in 2014. It is the multi stem variety as this shape suited my garden space. As advertised, it indeed provides multi season interest. This past summer I got to experience the “berry” phase….yes, they are edible and yes, if you plant this lovely tree next to your deck, it will be a “poop” deck.(sorry, could not resist). Birds LOVE these berries. So if you are prepared for this fact, I still recommend this tree. I am going to assume that the multi stem variety will not get as tall as the single. My tree started out at around 8-9 feet and is not much taller than that now…but I am expecting maybe 12 ultimately? maybe a little more? My only concern is that this fall the leaves are going yellow to brown and falling off–last year they turned red. So that this disappointing, but it may be a night temperature thing or some other variable I have no control over.(most trees in the neighborhood have not looked as spectacular this year, perhaps due to very warm Sept.) In summary, still love the tree. 🙂

  4. Hello! I also came across this post while searching about the tree. I noticed that it does produce berries, and I wandered if the birds eat them before the fall and make a mess everywhere?

  5. Hello Amy, I just ran across your post while searching for information about this tree. Thank you for this informative post! I have a question — the root system of this species. You did mention about choosing trees with non-invasive root system, and I wonder what sort of root system autumn brilliance has. Could you tell me, if you know? From what I’ve found thus far, it sounds like deep and extensive, but it may just be relative to its size, and if so, it may not be a big concern since it’s a small tree. It is on the short list for our front yard, and we want to make sure the foundation and the sewer line won’t be affected. Thanks!

    1. Hi Eri,
      I don’t think you will have a problem at all. From what I’ve read, it has a “fine root system close to the surface” and “places little demands on the soil, and prefers slightly calcareous soil that is not too wet”… just to be sure I would ask the nursery or place where you plan to purchase the tree. It is a very small, ornamental tree as far as trees go. Most nurseries will call it a shrub. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Hope that helps 🙂

      1. Amy, thank you for your reply! That’s just as I expected — it’s a small tree anyway. Love its four-seasonness, and I think it’s going to be one of the trees in our yard 🙂 Thanks again!

  6. This article was very informative. Thank you. My city is selling some select types of trees, and this serviceberry is one of them. I wandered upon your post upon my research. You’ve convinced me to get the tree! By the way, did you know you can eat the berries?

  7. Hi – I like your post. I’m wondering if you have any pics of your tree now? I’m wondering how much it grew in one year and whether you’ve had many blooms yet this spring. thanks!

    1. Hi Kyra,
      I’d say the tree grew about 12 inches in the past year. It’s getting taller, and not spreading much wider than when I got it… so it’s still very compact. No blooms yet (but I am in Northeast PA and it’s like 20 degrees today… so booooooo…). I will take a picture of it when it begins to bloom so you can see it 🙂

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