How to Grow and Care for Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

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Symphoricarpos orbiculatus belongs to the honeysuckle family of shrubs. It is a flowering plant and sometimes known as Indian currant, Devil’s shoestring, or buckbrush. This is a flowering, woody plant which is native to parts of the United States and Canada.

Coralberry is grown as an ornamental low-growing shrub, and it attracts wildlife and beneficial insects.


Konrad Moench re-classified this plant in the mid-1700s, and until then, it was known as Symphoricarpos symphoricarpos. However, because the first and second parts of a plant’s scientific name cannot be the same, it was changed.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameSymphoricarpos orbiculatus
Common namesCoralberry, devil’s shoestring, buckbrush, Indian currant
Height4 to 6 feet (1.83 m) 
Width4 feet (1.22 m) 
USDA Plant Hardiness ZoneZones 3 to 7
Native toParts of the US and Canada
Blooming seasonSpring and early Summer
Flower colorsWhite, green flowers and purple-pink berries
Plant specific featuresIdeal plant for inclusion in a woodland garden

How to Plant and Grow a Coralberry Bush

Where to Plant

Coralberry is a good choice for a woodland garden, as it will spread through its network of root systems and also by the natural layering of low-growing branches. Because it is a low-growing, small shrub, this perennial makes good ground cover. 

Its colorful, purple-pink berries provide winter interest. Fruit production will be maximized if planted in a sunny position.

In the wild, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus grows as a weed. But it is also planted as a garden specimen, by streams, riverbanks, and in shady woods under the branches of overhanging trees. Coralberry is also a plant that makes a good planting choice for erosion control.

When to Plant

Normally, it is best to plant coralberry in the Fall or in the Spring. However, bear in mind that sometimes, even early in the season, temperatures can reach great heights. For this reason, planting in the fall is likely to be more successful. 

The ground will be warm, and probably damp. New plants can get settled, and there will be time for them to establish strong root systems before the onset of the cold, winter weather. 

If you have the plants in containers for Spring planting, then keep them protected from strong afternoon sun and water them very regularly in hot weather. 

Coralberry Shrubs Care and Maintenance


Coralberry is adaptable and unfussy. It prefers damp soil that is slightly acidic, but will also grow in dry soil. 

Soil should be well-draining and can be sandy. This perennial will do less well in a coastal location. 


Newly planted coralberry shrubs will require regular watering for their first growing season. Thereafter, once established, this is a plant that is tough and low-maintenance. Watering will only be required in prolonged periods of dry weather, as coralberry has drought resistance.


The use of fertilizer on young coralberry plants will increase both the flower and berry size, and the quantity of flowers produced. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer should only be applied annually. 

Alternatively, you can use a liquid feed monthly during the flowering season. 

Whichever system you choose, ensure that fertilizer is not given after mid to late summer and that it has equal quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (N-P-K). Fertilizer that has a high nitrogen content will encourage lush, green growth, but at the expense of flowers and berries.


Symphoricarpos orbiculatus grows and flowers are best if planted in a sunny position. To thrive, it needs a position in full or partial sun, but will even survive if planted in full shade.

Pruning and Repotting

Coralberry tends to become rather leggy and untidy. Although it won’t grow very tall, even if neglected, it needs to be kept at a tidy height between 1 and 2 feet (0.61 m). 

If it has got out of hand, then it can be pruned hard and even cut back to ground level. Hard pruning will encourage a bushy plant that will produce more flowers and fruit.

Since coralberry flowers are on new wood, pruning needs to be carried out as soon as possible once flowering has finished. However, you will lose the colorful display of winter berries by doing so.


The best way to propagate coralberry, is to take semi-ripe cuttings in the summer from the current season’s growth. 

Alternatively, in the autumn, look for suckers coming up from the base of the plant. If you can see top growth, these suckers have already developed roots. You can dig them up and transplant them.

If you choose to propagate your Symphoricarpos orbiculatus by seed, then this is a slow, and unreliable method without high success rates. The seeds are contained in a hard coating and can be extracted by crushing the berries in water. 

Before germinating, the seeds need to have been subjected to periods of both warm and cold stratification. 

Pests and diseases

Coralberry is not usually troubled by pests or diseases. If soil doesn’t drain sufficiently, then fungal diseases such as powdery mildew can take hold. 

This shrub can be favored by deer if there is little on which they can forage during the winter. But this effectively just prunes the coralberry for you – and it will grow back more vigorously and more fruit will be produced. 

Most animals, however, will only forage on coralberry if there is nothing else available, due to the toxins contained within the berries. The berries are bitter. This means that the showy berries will remain on the plant for most of the winter. 

The attractive berries, which are showy and colorful, are not edible. They can cause stomach problems and sickness if eaten.

Temperature and Humidity

The hotter the summer, the more fruits will be produced in the autumn. Excessive humidity is not recommended, although it is a tough plant and will resist most extremes. Fungal diseases such as powdery mildew are usually caused by too much dampness in the soil and around the base of the plant.

Other Uses for Coralberry

In native areas, coralberry dried roots were used by the Americans to stun fish and make them easier to catch. It is from this ancient use, that the shrub’s alternative name, Devil’s Shoestring originated.

As well as the attractive winter berries, once the coralberry is mature, the branches have an interesting shredded bark, that is brown or purple in color. 

Coralberry is often used by florists to include in winter and fall displays. Both the arching branches with interesting bark and the bright clusters of colorful berries are attractive inclusions in floral arrangements. 

Types of Coralberry You Can Grow

Coralberry cultivars that are available offer specific characteristics such as compact size and variegated foliage.  

Coralberry “Proud Berry” produces full and bright fruit, together with blue-green foliage that will remain on the plant until the frosts.


If you are looking for a plant that will attract wildlife to your garden and that will provide an important food source for birds in winter, then coralberry is an ideal choice.

*image by nahhan/depositphotos

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