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A North American native, bunchberry is a charming groundcover with multiseason interest. It starts the show in spring, when its flowers—surrounded by showy white bracts—erupt over glossy green foliage. Enjoy its rich green leaves all summer, then keep your eyes open for the bright red berries (which attract birds) that appear in late summer and early fall. The display doesn’t stop until autumn, when bunchberry’s lustrous leaves turn pleasing shades of red to purple.
Note: Some botanists have reclassified this dogwood relative to be in its own family, so you may also see it referred to under the scientific name Chamaepericlymenum canadense.
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Using Bunchberry in the Garden
An ideal choice for woodland gardens, bunchberry grows beautifully in dappled shade with ferns, woodland phlox, and other native plants. Because it doesn't go dormant in summer, it's a natural partner for ephemeral perennials such as bloodroot, trillium, Dutchman's breeches, snowdrops, and crocus. You can also grow easy-care bunchberry in traditional shade gardens with non-native plants such as hellebore, bleeding heart, lungwort, and astilbe.
Don't have room in the ground for bunchberry? This small-stature and ultra-cold-hardy plant also thrives in containers, where you can enjoy it by itself or mix in shade-loving annuals such as Rex begonia, fuchsia, and torenia.
Caring For Bunchberry
Grow bunchberry in a spot with full shade, dappled shade, or afternoon shade. Avoid afternoon sun, as it can dry out the plant and cause the foliage to dry prematurely and turn brown. Because it's native to cool regions of North America and Asia, bunchberry dislikes hot-summer areas.
This woodland wildflower does best in moist, acidic, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. It benefits greatly from having compost, peat moss, or coconut coir amended in the ground at planting time. If the soil has particularly high clay content, add a top-dressing of 1 to 2 inches of organic matter over the soil after bunchberry's foliage has died back in early winter.
Keep bunchberry moist and happy by spreading an organic mulch around the plant. A 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of a light mulch, such as pine needles, shredded wood, or cocoa hulls, is best. This mulch layer prevents the soil from drying out as quickly and also reduces weeds.
Easy-care bunchberry requires no pruning. So once you plant it, all you need to do is keep it watered in hot weather to enjoy its spring-to-fall beauty.