What Is Snowberry Plant: How To Grow, Plant, Care for Waxberry (Winter Berry)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 28, 2024

Man holding fruit of snowberry plant after learning how to grow snowberries, how to plant and care for waxberry (winter berry) bushes, snowberry growing zones, tips.

Found growing along embankments and in craggy areas of woodlands and meadows, the Snowberry, also called Wax or Winter Berry, is now grown primarily as an ornamental for its year-long appeal.

Homesteaders and naturalists are also growing Snowberry in their backyard gardens to help provide food and shelter for native wildlife.

This article explains how to identify what the Snowberry plant is, as well as how to grow, plant, and care for Waxberry (Winter Berry) in your own home garden.

What Is a Snowberry Bush (Symphoricarpos albus)?

The Snowberry bush is a small to medium-sized shrub that grows in cool to warm regions all over the United States, except in the hot southern areas. In the summer, it is a leafy shrub with pink bell-shaped flowers.

During the fall, the pink flowers give way to green seed pods that will eventually ripen into white berries, thus its common name. The white berries remain throughout winter, long after the leaves have fallen, making it a one-of-a-kind bush.


(Symphoricarpos albus)

Snowberry plant image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Characteristics: Short, craggy shrub with distinct leaves, seeds and berries
  • Family: Caprifoliaceae, Honeysuckle
  • Genus: Symphoricarpos
  • Leaf: Irregular
  • Seed: White drupes
  • Blossoms: Small, bell-shaped white or pink
  • Native Habitat: Open woodlands, craggy hillsides, clearings
  • Height: 2 to 5 feet tall
  • Canopy: 6 feet wide
  • Type: Deciduous shrub
  • Native Growing Zone: 3 - 7

The Latin name is taken from the Greek words: symphorein, carpos, and albus.8 Symphorein means to bear together, which is exhibited in the manner in which the berries grow in clusters at the end of the branches.

Carpos means fruit and albus means white. The white berry stands out in stark contrast to the bare winter branches.

Common Snowberry (Waxberry)

The common Snowberry is also called Waxberry, White Coralberry, and Ghostberry. They grow white Snowberry drupes or seed pods.

There are a few other varieties that grow pink fruits.

Flower and fruit of a common Snowberry hanging from the plant.

(Image: Anya Chernik16)

The Magic Berry is a hybrid species that grows pink Snowberry drupes.3 The Sophie is a compact variety that develops dark pink berries.

There is also a variegated variety, called Variegatus, which has a white border along its leaves. The Magical Galaxy variety will grow similarly shaped types of white flowers.2

Growing a Snowberry From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

Growing Snowberry plants from seed is a time-consuming process, so it is suggested to start this process in the fall. The seeds are encased in a tough shell that requires moist stratification at 70 degrees F for three months and cold stratification at 40 degrees F for almost six months.2

You’ll have to scar the surface of the seed to allow for heat and moisture to penetrate the outer shell.

Once the seed has germinated, plant the seed a quarter of an inch into moist soil. You’ll need to keep the seedlings inside for the first winter as they are not strong enough to handle harsh freezing temperatures.

During this phase, they can be kept in containers with moist and organic soil.

If you buy seedlings from a nursery, growing them in their container is still suggested until their first winter has passed. In early spring, you can plant your seedlings outside in their final location, keeping the plants about six feet apart to accommodate their mature size.3

Cuttings are the easiest and fastest methods for propagation. This process is best done at the end of summer and in a container to allow new plants time to develop strong roots.2

Remove a four to six-inch-long section of new growth from the parent plant. Dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone and place the cut end down an inch or two into moist soil.

Keep the potted cutting out of direct sunlight and the soil moist. Transfer to its final location next spring.

Tips for the Best Growing Conditions for Snowberry

Below you will find planting tips for Snowberry plants to help you grow healthy specimens in your garden. Snowberries can tolerate a wide variety of soils and can do well in bright sun or partial shade.

Because of its vigorous root system, this plant can be started in containers but needs to move outside once it begins to develop hardy roots. Watering needs for Snowberry plants are average, although you’ll need to keep the soil moist at the beginning of its growing phase.

Snowberry Growing Zone

Zones two through seven are suitable growing zones for Snowberry. Where to grow this plant for its best appeal will be in regions that have warm summers with an average temperature in the mid-seventies and winters that do not go beyond -30 degrees F.

Snowberry Growth Rate

Exactly how long it takes to grow Snowberry will depend on some variables, especially available sunlight and water. Generally, the Snowberry is a fast-growing shrub once it’s established.

Poor sunshine will affect the number of blooms that appear. It can be drought-tolerant but only once it has established a deep root system.

How Do I Know When To Plant Snowberry for the Best Yield?

In terms of growing Snowberry for a plentiful yield of blooms and flowers, you’ll want to move all of your starts to their final location by Spring. Remember to overwinter your seedlings and young plants for their first winter, though.

After which, they can be moved outside. Protect young plants from extreme heat and overwatering for the first year.

How Much Sunlight Does Snowberry Need Each Day?

These plants do better in full to partial shade with an average of six to eight hours of sunlight each day. In areas of extreme heat, be sure to keep the soil moist.

Avoid planting the Snowberry in heavily shaded locations.

Companion Plants For Growing Snowberry

To successfully incorporate Snowberry into your garden landscaping, look for plants similar to those grown in its native habitat. Taller options include dogwoods, pines, Douglas firs, pines, and hemlock.5 For shorter companions, consider Wood’s rose, bearberry, mock orange, ferns, and chaparral shrubs.3

How To Stop Snowberry Disease

Snowberry disease prevention is a common goal. After all, it’s taken so long to germinate the seeds and cultivate a strong crop of Snowberry, the last thing you want is for disease to destroy all the hard work you’ve done.

For the most part, Snowberry plants are low-maintenance and suffer from few diseases.6 Powdery mildew, fungal rust, leaf spot, and berry rot are common problems with Snowberry plants.

To combat these diseases, aim to keep the leaves and stems dry by watering at the ground level. Certain diseases may need specific fungicide sprays, one being a copper-based solution to treat most fungal diseases.2

Remove affected branches and plant parts to prevent fungal spreading. Keep the ground level clear of contaminated leaves or berries that have fallen.

Prune away congested stems, branches, and new growth at the soil level to allow ample airflow that will aid in keeping the plant dry during the humid months.

How To Identify Snowberry Plant

In early spring, it is easy to overlook the Snowberry plant. However, once its honeysuckle-type blooms begin to appear, they tend to stand out from the rest of the greenery in the area.

Snowberry Leaves

Snowberry leaves are very irregular in size and shape. New shoots have one or two lobes at the base of the leaf before leveling out to the typical oval shape.

Graphics showing how to identify snowberry with text and images showing a snowberry plant, snowberry fruit, snowberry flower, and snowberry leaves inside circular frames.

(Fruit and Leaf Images by: AnRo000213,14)

They are blueish green with a pale underside that can be covered in fine hairs. They are roughly two to four inches long with either smooth or serrated edges.

They grow along stems in an alternating pattern. Stems are gray on newer plants but will darken into deep purple shoots as the plant matures.

Snowberry Flower

Towards the middle of May through July, small clusters of flowers appear at the end of the shrubs’ branches. They can be greenish-white to cream or pink in color, measuring about a quarter-inch.

Dainty and bell-shaped, the annual flower attracts birds, various types of bees, and many types of butterflies with its nectar. They have an off-putting aroma, though.9

Snowberry Seeds

Around the same time, the leaves begin to fall from the branches, and Snowberry fruits begin to form. Originally green and oval in shape, the drupes are almost half an inch in diameter, and filled with a sparkling white material.

Photo of the white berries of Snowberry still attached to its leaves.

(Image: Wsiegmund15)

Inside are two flat stone seeds. The seeds have both sex organs, making the Snowberry hermaphroditic.4

White Winter Berries: Are Snowberries Edible?

Although songbirds can eat the seeds, they have a bitter taste and can be toxic to humans if eaten in large quantities. They contain saponin, which is an antioxidant and microbial soap-like substance. Native Americans used the berries to create soaps and salves for skin irritations.8

What Are the Effects of Eating Snowberries?

In most adults, they will suffer from upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. The toxins can be cooked off, as some Native Americans have used the berries in medicinal concoctions.

For the most part, it is more commonly discouraged for human consumption.

Is There Any Snowberry Symbolism?

Some people believe the Snowberry is the food of the dead and believe it can protect you from ghosts.7 Native Americans use the berries to create foam in water that makes it difficult for fish to breathe.

The fish must surface for air, making them easier to catch. The Natives equate a bountiful bloom to a plentiful dog salmon harvest, saying ‘the white berry is in the eye of the dog salmon.”1

An interesting Snowberry fact is that after a fire, snowberries are the first plants to recolonize. Because of their expansive root system, they are more commonly used in restoration projects where soil erosion has been an issue.

Each part of the plant is a food source for many animals, including mice, birds, deer, bears, and Sphinx moth larvae.

When building out your ideal garden landscaping, it’s important to look for plants that are easy to care for while providing seasonal interest.

It’s also important to take into consideration the local wildlife and how your garden can provide for them.

The common Snowberry plant satisfies all of these requirements, making it an ideal choice to include in your native-inspired garden.

Frequently Asked Questions About Snowberry

Are There Any Common Pests of the Snowberry?

Common pests of the Snowberry include aphids, scale, and clearwing larvae.10 Natural pest control for Snowberry includes organic horticultural oils. Imidacloprid spray is designed to mimic naturally occurring nicotine in plants and will help to combat chewing insects.11


1Bressette, D. (2024). Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus. Native Plants PNW. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://nativeplantspnw.com/common-Snowberry-symphoricarpos-albus/>

2Richins Myers, V. (2022, March 19). How to Grow and Care for Common Snowberry. The Spruce. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://www.thespruce.com/common-Snowberry-growing-profile-3269157#toc-common-pests--plant-diseases>

3Hicks-Hamblin, K. (2023, June 20). How to Grow and Care for Snowberry Bush. Gardener’s Path. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://gardenerspath.com/plants/ornamentals/grow-Snowberry-bush/>

4Symphoricarpos. (2023, November 3). Wikipedia. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphoricarpos>

5California Native Plant Society. (2024). Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus. Calscape. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://calscape.org/Symphoricarpos-albus-(Common-Snowberry)>

6Gardenia.net. (2024). Symphoricarpos albus (Common Snowberry). Gardenia.net. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://www.gardenia.net/plant/symphoricarpos-albus-Snowberry>

7Bane Folk. (2024). Snowberry Flower Essence – Bane Folk. Bane Folk. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://banefolk.com/shop/Snowberry-flower-essence/>

8Chenoweth, J. (2022, February 28). Common Snowberry. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/common-snowberry.htm>

9USDA. (2024). Plant Fact Sheet for Snowberry. USDA Plants Database. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/factsheet/pdf/fs_syal.pdf>

10State of Connecticut. (2024). Snowberry Symphoricarpos. CT.gov. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://portal.ct.gov/CAES/Plant-Pest-Handbook/pphS/Snowberry-Symphoricarpos>

11National Pesticide Information. (May 2010). Imidacloprid General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/imidagen.html>

12Species Information Image: a bush with white flowers and green leaves. Photo by Annie Spratt. Unsplash License. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Unsplash. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/a-bush-with-white-flowers-and-green-leaves-r_I-unbtRfI>

1320140920Symphoricarpos albus2. Photo by AnRo0002. CC0 1.0 Deed. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20140920Symphoricarpos_albus2.jpg>

1420150522Symphoricarpos albus1. Photo by AnRo0002. CC0 1.0 Deed. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20150522Symphoricarpos_albus1.jpg>

15Symphoricarpos albus 7927. Photo by Walter Siegmund. CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=406319>

16a close up of a plant with leaves and berries. Photo by Anya Chernik. Unsplash License. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Unsplash. Retrieved January 6, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/a-close-up-of-a-plant-with-leaves-and-berries-ANhQwX7cLWw>