What the gardener needs to know about shepherdia

Shepherdia is little known to Russian gardeners. In household plots, it can be found quite rarely. Meanwhile, this is an unusual, very ornamental shrub, which also regularly brings crops. In appearance, the fruits are very similar to sea buckthorn berries, but shepherdia is much tastier and healthier. Another undoubted advantage is unpretentiousness in leaving. The plant successfully adapts to almost any weather and climatic conditions, does not impose special requirements on the quality of the soil.

What does shepherd look like?

Shepherdia (Shepherdia) is a genus of perennial shrubs belonging to the family Sucker (Elaeagnaceceae). In Russia, it is still little known, its closest "cousin" sea buckthorn is much more common. However, at home (USA, Canada), as well as in European countries, this plant is widely used in landscape design. Silvery leaves and blood-scarlet berries of shepherdia contrast very effectively with dark green needles, it also looks good against the background of plants with red foliage (barberry, irga, weigela).

Shepherdia is widely used in landscape design due to its spectacular appearance and attractiveness.

Shepherd was discovered long ago, in 1818. The name she received in honor of the prominent botanist from the British Empire, John Shepherd, who was the first curator of the most famous botanical garden in Liverpool. The author of the name, he is the discoverer, is the Philadelphia professor of botany, Thomas Nuttall. He sent the first copies of shepherdia across the ocean to the very botanical garden, from where they spread throughout Europe.

The birthplace of shepherdia is Canada and the USA, the climate there is not too different from the Russian

Russia (then the Russian Empire) became acquainted with shepherdia at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the famous breeder I.V. Michurin. He was very interested in the beneficial properties and taste of the fruit of the plant, transferring several copies to his own acclimatization garden, located in Kiev. After his death, Shepherd was not forgotten by the garden staff, and soon a whole plantation appeared. Most likely, this explains the fact that of all the countries of the former USSR, shepherd is the most popular in Ukraine, although culture is not particularly heat-loving.

Shepherdia is notable for good productivity, besides collecting it is much easier than sea buckthorn

The plant has many nicknames - “buffalo / bison berry”, “hare / rabbit berry”, “soap berry”, “American sea buckthorn”, “Nebraska currant”, “crucified berry”, “silver leaf”. The first three are most common. Their origin is explained by the fact that the first colonizers of America used the berry to prepare the sauce for buffalo and rabbit meat, and the flesh of the fruits was soapy to the touch.

Shepherdia is a plant from the “two in one” category, it successfully combines an attractive appearance and the presence of tasty and healthy fruits

The average height of an adult shrub is 3-5 m. Most often, it drops leaves for the winter, but there are evergreen species. The shoots of shepherdia are very thin, covered with a rough bark of gray-beige color and often located with long sharp spikes. The shoots intensively branch, twist, intertwine, cross, especially near the ground, creating an almost insurmountable obstacle. This feature makes shepherdia very suitable for the formation of hedges.

Shepherdia holds its shape well after trimming, intensively branches - this makes it an ideal plant for the formation of hedges

The leaves are small, 5-7 cm long, dense to the touch. They are arranged in pairs opposite each other on short petioles. The leaf plate is elliptical or lanceolate, smooth, bright green in color. But from afar, it seems silvery due to the presence of small scales or villi that reflect sunlight. The underside of the leaf is also pubescent, even thicker than the front side.

The leaves of shepherdia are bright green, but due to the presence of densely arranged villi, it seems that they are cast in silver

Shepherd's bloom is not the most spectacular sight in the world. However, her flowers are beneficial. This plant is a good honey plant, attracting pollinating insects to the site. Very small yellowish or creamy flowers, collected in a brush or spike-shaped inflorescences, bloom in early April, even before the bush is covered with leaves. Flowers do not last long, within one and a half weeks. They bloom as soon as the air warms up to a temperature of 7–9ºС.

Shepherdia flowers can not be called spectacular and outwardly attractive.

Shepherdia belongs to the category of dioecious plants. This means that if it is planted not only to decorate the garden, but also with a view to future fruiting, it is necessary to have both “female” and “male” plants in a ratio of about 4: 1. The latter act as pollinators. You can determine which category a bush belongs to by examining flower buds. In “male” plants, they are larger and rounded; in “female” plants, they have a pointed tip and are tightly pressed to the shoot. "Male" flowers are devoid of a pestle, they are characterized by the presence of many stamens.

The “male” flower of shepherdia is easily identified by the absence of a pistil

The shepherd's fruit is a medium-sized (5–6 mm in diameter) rounded berry of scarlet or orange-red color. Her skin is covered with multiple whitish spots, like a spray of paint. For her, this is the norm, not some exotic disease. The flesh is soft, sweet and sour. There is an astringent astringent taste that not everyone likes, so jellies, marshmallows, jams, compotes, liquors, other preparations are often prepared from berries than they are fresh. Although practice shows that the fruits left on the bush before the first frost are much sweeter and more tender. Shepherdia is also recommended for making sauces - here it is light acidity and piquant tartness is very handy.

The taste of the fruits of Shepherdia is not liked by everyone, but they are very useful, so you can tolerate

Unlike sea buckthorn, collecting shepherdia is very easy. After frost, it is enough to spread a film, cloth or newspaper under the bush and shake it several times vigorously. Fruits ripen already at the end of summer, but until this time they are firmly held on branches, do not fall.

Berries are extremely healthy. The first to realize this was the natives of North America. Shepherdia contains much more vitamin C than lemon, sea buckthorn and black currant (up to 250 mg). In addition, it contains organic acids, carotene, tannins, anthocyanins, vitamins A, E, R. Shepherdia helps to increase the overall tone of the body, slows down aging, helps strengthen immunity, fight against viral diseases, colds, inflammatory processes, is used in prevention of hypertension and atherosclerosis. Berries also have a bile and diuretic effect. Their calorie content is small - only 28 kcal per 100 g. The only drawback is that berries can cause allergies. Therefore, their use should be taken with caution to those who already know about the presence of individual intolerance to any food product.

During heat treatment, the benefits of shepherdia berries are not lost, so homemade preparations are often made from it, the taste of the fruits is significantly improved, the characteristic astringency disappears

Shepherdia is characterized by early maturity. The first time a plant blooms in two to three years after the planting of a seedling in the ground. An adult bush annually brings 12-15 kg of berries. The productive period is at least 30 years, simple care will help extend it to 50-60 years. With age, productivity only increases, reaching 40-50 kg.

The climate in the homeland of Shepherdia differs little from that characteristic of most of the territory of Russia. The shrub tolerates frosts to -45 ° C without much damage to itself, which makes it suitable for cultivation in Siberia, the Urals, and the Far East. Cold resistance is distinguished not only by shoots, but also by the kidneys. The buds and leaves open, the bushes bear fruit after the most severe spring back frosts, which in these regions, rightly called the "risky farming zone", are not something out of the ordinary.

What is important for gardeners, the plant does not suffer from fungal, bacterial or viral diseases, pests also do not show interest in it. Therefore, the plant does not need spraying with pesticides and insecticides, which allows you to get an environmentally friendly crop.

Existing species

There are only three representatives in the Shepherdian clan. Breeders, on the other hand, became interested in this plant quite recently, so experiments on the cultivation of large-fruited varieties have not yet yielded sustainable results. The same can be said of attempts to cross Shepherdia with sea buckthorn. This direction is recognized as very promising - it is possible to combine the yield and large-fruited sea buckthorn with the shepherd's characteristic resistance to diseases, pests, adverse climatic and weather conditions.

Most often in the gardens you can find silver shepherdia (S. argentea). This is a tree-like shrub with spiny branches, reaching a height of 5-6 m. Young greenish-silver shoots gradually change color to gray-brown. The leaves are medium-sized, 3-5 cm long, in the shape of an ellipse with a pointed tip. Due to the characteristic pubescence, they are cast on both sides with silver. Fruits with a diameter of 5–6 mm and a weight of about 0.5–0.7 g. They ripen in late summer, although they acquire a characteristic color in July.

Silver shepherd is found on garden plots most often.

There are breeding hybrids with bright yellow fruits - Xanthocarpa and Goldeneye. But these are recent achievements of breeders, which so far are extremely rare in open access. Finding them is very difficult, even abroad.

Video: what shepherd silver looks like

Canadian Shepherd (S. canadensis) is found "in captivity" much less often. She has an undeniable advantage - the absence of spikes, but she is able to perform an exclusively decorative function. Its fruits are small, yellow-orange, have almost no taste. It also does not differ in growth rate, the maximum height is 1.5–2.5 m. The leaves are grayish-green or olive, glossy shiny, egg-shaped.

The main advantage of the Canadian shepherd is the absence of thorns, but its fruits are rarely eaten.

The last representative of the genus is shepherd round-leaved (S. rotundifolia). This is an endemic plant found in nature exclusively in the state of Colorado. It does not differ in winter hardiness, therefore it is not suitable for cultivation in most of the territory of Russia. Her leaves are covered with small growths, similar to warts, located on the branches very densely. At the same time, they are rather fleshy, therefore, under their weight, the shoots tend to the ground, forming a beautiful cascade. The flowers are very small, yellowish. Fruits are not eaten.

Shepherdia rotundifolia - an endemic plant in Colorado that does not differ in frost resistance, which seriously hinders its distribution among amateur gardeners

How to plant a plant

Shepherdia is unpretentious. This is especially manifested in the undemanding quality of the soil. Ideal for it is sandy loamy or loamy soil - quite nutritious and with good aeration. But it can grow where no other culture can survive. Shepherdia successfully exists and bears fruit on sandy, rocky, saline soils. This is due to the fact that on the roots of the plant there are small nodules - containers of special bacteria. Thanks to them, shepherdia provides itself with nitrogen, “pulling” it from the atmosphere. Only a heavy substrate (clay, mud, peat) will not suit her.

The root system of the plant is superficial, but very developed. Therefore, the bush can be planted on steep slopes, cliffs, slopes. He is able to effectively protect these areas from erosion.

It is advisable to choose an open place for shepherdia. Heat and sunlight positively affect the yield and taste of berries. A bad option is any lowlands, they often stagnate water and cold humid air. Also, do not plant shepherdia where groundwater comes closer to the surface than a meter. The absence of stagnation of moisture is almost the only requirement of the plant, it is worth listening to it. It is also desirable to have a barrier at some distance that protects the bush from gusts of cold wind, but this is not a prerequisite.

Heat and sunshine have a positive effect on the quantity and taste of shepherdia berries

The best time to land in a temperate climate, especially in the Urals and Siberia, is spring. The weather in these regions is unpredictable; winter can come suddenly. When planting in autumn, you need to be sure that there are at least two months left before the first frost. For a seedling, this is enough time to "cope with the stress" and adapt to new living conditions.

When planting several plants at the same time, they maintain a distance of 1.8–2 m between them. The only exception is shepherdia, intended for the formation of hedges. In this case, the interval is reduced to 0.5 m.

Shepherdia seedlings must be purchased in specialized stores or nurseries, this is a guarantee of the quality of planting material

The optimum depth of the landing pit is 0.5–0.75 m. It is advisable to cook it in advance, at least 10-12 days before the planned procedure. To each add 10-15 l of rotted manure or humus, a liter jar of sifted wood ash, mixing fertilizers with the top layer of earth extracted from the pit (the first 10-15 cm). Then you need to cover the pit with something waterproof, for example, a piece of slate.

There is no need to make a deep landing pit for shepherdia, the root system of the plant is superficial

There is nothing complicated about landing in the ground. This procedure for shepherdia differs little from that for fruit trees and berry bushes.

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  1. The root system is carefully inspected, dry and dead roots are removed. Healthy pruned 2-3 cm, without touching the nodules on them.
  2. For 3-4 hours, the roots of shepherd are immersed in a container of water at room temperature. You can add potassium permanganate to it (to a pale pink hue) or any biostimulant (Epin, Heteroauxin, potassium humate, succinic acid), having prepared the solution according to the instructions.
  3. The plant is placed on a mound of land and gently straighten the roots, directing them down. Particular care must be taken not to damage the nodules on them.
  4. The planting pit is covered with small portions of the earth, periodically shaking the seedling. It is not necessary to compact the substrate strongly, the soil should remain sufficiently loose.
  5. A trunk tree with a diameter of 50–70 cm is watered abundantly, spending 25–30 liters of water. When it is absorbed, this area is mulched with peat crumb, humus, freshly cut grass, and rotted sawdust.
  6. Existing shoots are shortened by about a third to stimulate further branching.

Planting shepherdia in the ground is almost no different from a similar procedure for other shrubs and trees

Breeding shepherdia

Shepherdia successfully propagates by both vegetative and generative methods. At the same time, bushes obtained from seeds fully inherit the varietal characteristics of the “parent” plant. This does not apply only to hybrids bred by breeding, but they practically do not occur in Russia.

Seed germination

Shepherdia seeds are collected independently, grinding the pulp of the largest berries into the pulp. Then the container with them must be put in the sun. When the pulp dries, the seeds can be easily separated from it.

Shepherdia seeds are easy to collect on their own, it is desirable to plant them in the same year when they are collected

They are planted in the same autumn, over time, germination significantly decreases. In seeds collected in the same season, it is about 80%. It is not practical to store planting material for more than two years. The best time to land is the first decade of November. The ratio of “male” and “female” plants among the seedlings obtained is approximately equal, so there is no need to worry about this.

  1. Harvested seeds are planted immediately in open ground. They do not need to be deeply deepened, 2-3 cm are enough. An unheated greenhouse is ideal for this purpose. In order not to lose the landing site, you can dig a small box into the ground in advance. An alternative to such natural stratification is seed aging for 6–8 weeks at a temperature of 0–2ºС. In this case, they are planted in the ground in April or May, but their germination rate is significantly lower - no more than 60%.
  2. Plantings are mulched with peat or humus, creating a layer 8–10 cm thick. As soon as enough snow falls, a snowdrift is poured on the bed.
  3. The first shoots should appear in the second decade of April. During the season, seedlings are cared for as adult plants. Until the end of July, it is advisable to carry out 2-3 fertilizing with nitrogen-containing fertilizers - they stimulate the growth of green mass.
  4. By the end of autumn, seedlings will reach a height of 12-15 cm. Such plants can be transplanted to the intended area. The first harvest from the shepherdia grown from seeds can be expected in 5–6 years, but this period can be extended to 8–10 years.

Shepherdia seeds planted in the open ground before winter show better germination than those that germinate at home

Propagation by root layers

The shepherdia thus obtained bears fruit already 3-4 years after rooting. Dense shoots are formed at a distance of 1.5–2 m from the bush. Two-year-olds are best rooted.

Reproduction using basal shoots is a method provided by nature itself. Planting material is carefully removed from the soil along with the roots.

  1. Dig up the soil, layering carefully separated from the mother plant. It is necessary to make as few cuts as possible, minimizing trauma to the roots.
  2. The wounds inflicted by the offspring are disinfected, sprinkled with crushed chalk, activated charcoal, sifted wood ash, cinnamon.
  3. Layers are planted in the selected place, moderately watered. If the street is not too warm, they are covered with cut-off plastic bottles. In extreme heat, the plantings are protected with white covering material. As soon as new leaves appear, shelters can be removed.


A shepherd's cutlery is the top or middle part of an annual shoot 10–12 cm long. Cut them off at an angle of about 45º. It is desirable that it be non-lignified; such cuttings take root much faster. You can cut planting material throughout the season, but the best time for this is the end of July or the first half of July.

Shepherdia cuttings best suited for propagation - tops of annual shoots

  1. The lower cut of the shoot is soaked for about a day in a solution of any root stimulant prepared according to the instructions. You can simply sprinkle with powder Kornevin, Heteroauxin, Zircon.
  2. Small pots or plastic cups are filled with sterilized soil for seedlings. The substrate is well moisturized.
  3. Cuttings are planted in the soil, buried 3-4 cm at an angle of about 60º. If necessary, break off the lower leaves. Sprinkle the soil with a thin layer of sand (1-2 cm). It is imperative to create a greenhouse effect by placing containers in bags, covering them with glass caps or cut plastic bottles. Every 5-10 minutes cover is removed to avoid condensation.
  4. Cuttings, provided with bright scattered light for 8–10 hours a day and a temperature of 22–25 ° C, give roots in 20–25 days. Also, they need to be sprayed daily with water at room temperature. The soil should not be allowed to dry out; direct cuts of sunlight on them are also detrimental.
  5. At the end of September or in the first decade of October, rooted cuttings are transplanted to a permanent place.

Shepherdia is propagated by cuttings in the same way as other berry bushes.

Shrub care

Caring for Shepherd will take away from the gardener a minimum of time and effort. Even those who do not have much experience in the relevant field are guaranteed to cope with its cultivation.

Shepherdia is characterized by frost and drought resistance, undemanding to the quality of the soil. She doesn’t need shelter for the winter, she can well do with natural rainfall. Although she gratefully responds to additional watering and top dressing, organic or mineral.

Shepherdia endures the most severe frosts without damage, therefore, does not need shelter for the winter

Any plant needs water during the formation and ripening of fruits. Therefore, if the summer is hot and arid, it is advisable to water the shepherdia once every 8–10 days, spending 25–30 l on an adult bush.

Shepherd can well do with natural rainfall, but regular watering during the summer has a positive effect on productivity

Each time after watering or rain, the soil must be very carefully loosened. The root system of shepherdia is developed, but superficial. Regular weeding is also important. Weeds take away the necessary nutrition from the plant and interfere with normal aeration. Significantly save time on weeding will help mulching. Basal shoots, if there is no need for planting material, are also removed by digging up the soil and pruning the roots. "Hemp" is not recommended to leave.

Two to three times during the season, you can make top dressing. In spring, the plant needs nitrogen. This can be rotted manure or humus (15–20 l) distributed over the near-stem circle, carbamide, ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate (10–15 g per 10 l of water) or an infusion of nettle, dandelion leaves (or any other weeds).

Urea, like other nitrogen-containing fertilizers, stimulates the plant to build green mass, which is very important in spring

During the formation and ripening of the fruit, the bushes are fed with phosphorus and potassium (25-30 g of simple superphosphate and potassium nitrate per 10 l of water). A natural alternative is infusion of wood ash (1 liter can of 3 liters of boiling water). After harvesting, the same top dressing is repeated. You can use complex preparations (ABA, Autumn).

Wood ash - a natural source of potassium and phosphorus

Shepherdia is characterized by growth rate and branching intensity, so the only mandatory procedure for caring for it is pruning. Such plants look much neater and more decorative. It is advisable to limit the height to 2–2.5 m, shortening the side shoots to the first branches. This greatly facilitates harvesting. This procedure is carried out every 3-5 years.

As you grow older, the growth rate slows down, so every 7-8 years, the shepherdia needs a rejuvenating pruning. All existing shoots older than this age are completely removed, the rest are shortened by the growth of the last two to three years. This stimulates the bush to further branching, contributes to the growth of productivity and increase the size of the fruit.

For cutting shepherdia use only sharpened and sanitized tools

Every year, in spring and autumn, sanitary pruning is carried out, getting rid of broken, dried up and unsuccessfully located, directed down and deep into the crown, winding shoots.

Gardeners reviews

The fruits of shepherdia silvery, as far as I know, are sweet and sour, this is written in all sources. But the relative of the silver shepherdia - the Canadian shepherdia - really has bitter fruits.

Lord of flowers

Shepherdia is also similar to sea buckthorn, including in taste, like turnip for radish - only the family is one and the shape of the fruit is nothing more in common.

serov vladimir

I've been growing silver shepherd for two years now. Beautiful hassle-free bush, not yet bloomed.


Every year I collect shepherd. Ripe, almost cherry berry: sweet, slightly sour, astringent taste is present, but slightly. This berry is an amateur, but I really like it, I freeze a lot and eat in winter, like seeds. In our country, shepherdia does not grow with three-meter trees and, under the weight of berries, looks more like ivushka.

Lyudmila I

Shepherdia, of course, is a dioecious plant. Male and female plants can be distinguished only by flower buds: in men they are round, large, in women - pointed, small. Flower buds are formed on annual shoots and continuation shoots. The flowers are collected in short spike-shaped inflorescences. Pollination in shepherdia, as well as in relatives of sucker and sea buckthorn, cross, sucker and shepherdia are insect-pollinated, sea-buckthorn - wind-pollinated. I acquired plants of different sexes, they are small, about half a meter long, do not proliferate soon.


Like sea buckthorn, shepherdia is a dioecious plant. For fruiting, it is necessary to have both a female and a male plant. For several years now, the female plant of Shepherdia, grafted onto sea buckthorn, has been blooming, due to the absence of a male plant, the ovary, although it forms, but quickly falls off. It is not worth worrying about the winter hardiness of shepherdia, it is quite frost-resistant, moreover, drought-resistant, not susceptible to fungal diseases.

Sergey Lazurchenko

Personally, my opinion is that if you want to keep shepherdia because of berries, you should not! The berry, in principle, is delicious, but the viscosity characteristic of many Suckers is not completely released from it. If you keep it, it’s only for the collection, as “abnormal” as I am, collecting everything that is possible and impossible on its site.

Nikolay from Samara

Growing a shepherdia will not require a significant expenditure of time and effort from the gardener. It is enough to give her a minimum of attention, so that the bush for many years decorated the garden. The plant is highly regarded for its attractive, very unusual appearance and the benefits of the fruit. All this contributes to the rapid growth of its popularity. Shepherdia is gradually spreading in Russia. She is quite capable of displacing from the garden plots, for example, sea buckthorn.


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