Eleagnus Pugens, Silverberry, Or Silverthorn

Eleagnus Pugens, Silverberry, Or Silverthorn

SilverberryIf you are adhering to “right plant-right place” Eleagnus pugens, or silverberry can have a place in your landscape.  This evergreen shrub grows rapidly, it is absolutely bulletproof, the flowers are very fragrant, and the berries provide food for birds in winter. Silverthorn or silverberry can be very useful to stabilize the soil on hillsides.   This shrub is definitely too large for small spaces, if it is planted in a confined space your will have to prune often.

Silverberry is a huge sprawling shrub that shoots scores of long branchless stems into the air during the growing season. If grown in the open and left unpruned this shrub will form a symmetrical mound of foliage that can reach 15 ft. high and 15 ft. in diameter.  The slender young stems are very pliable and very fast growing. These stems, or canes bend to form great arcs if unsupported. When grown adjacent to other plantings this shrub will weave it’s way among the host’s branches in an aggressive bid for sunlight.

Starting in late fall and early winter it will produce scores of flowers that are cream colored, bell shaped, about 0.25 in long that are held in small clusters where the leaf joins the stem. They are drab and nondescript is an understatement. They can grab your attention from hundreds of yards away with their strong, heavenly scented fragrance.  These tiny flowers mature into dark small reddish brown fruits that have an unusual silvery textured surface. The fruits are a favorite treat for birds and are said to be edible for humans. 

Silverberry doesn’t have actual thorns.  The plant has the interesting trait of forming newly emergent branch stems that are very pointed and stiff.  They are about  1 inches in length and feel very much like thorns.  Eventually small leaves sprout from the thorn and the pointy spike quickly grows into a soft young stem. The oval leaves themselves are very attractive and arranged alternately along the stems.  Most silverthorn cultivars have leaves that are 2 to 4 in long with wavy edges.  Leaves are green on top and covered with small brown scales, the undersides are lighter and like the fruit and bark, the undersides are coated with silvery flecks.

Special Features Of Silverberry

The sweet fragrance of the flowers, reminiscent of gardenia, will delight in the autumn and winter garden. Silverberry is very easy to grow and is bothered by few pests. Best of all it is a very fast grower – perfect for quickly creating a green background at the edge of your property. Place it on an expanse of lawn to create a great mound of wildlife habitat. The dense growth provides perfect sites for nests and the small red fruits will feed hungry songbirds during the winter.  This is not a good shrub for small areas as it will require constant pruning.

General Silverberry Information

Pests And Diseases

This shrub is really bulletproof, there are no pest or disease problems.


Easily propagated by softwood or hardwood cuttings and by seed.

Garden Uses

Silverberry is an excellent choice for a privacy screen and as part of a program to attract support birds.  This shrub responds well to pruning and makes an excellent evergreen hedge and barrier. It is often planted along highways and is useful in controlling soil erosion. This adaptable plant is tolerant of salt spray and so is a good choice for coastal locations.

Quick Facts

Origin: Silverthorn is native to China and Japan.

Culture: Thorny Elaeagnus is fast growing, easy to care for and tolerant of a wide variety of conditions.  

Light: Part to full sun.

Moisture: Water when dry for best growth, but silverthorn is able to withstand drought even in light sandy soil. Constantly wet, soggy soil will kill this plant.

Hardiness Zones: Zones 6 to 10

Photo Search

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  1. I’ve never heard of this one. According to the USDA, it doesn’t grow in New England. It seems odd that it doesn’t because it grows throughout most of Canada. It must be good and hardy.
    New Hampshire Gardener recently posted..Things I’ve SeenMy Profile

  2. This sounds really astoundingly invasive. I’ve struggled with too many plants that want to totally take over to mess with this one.
    Gunta recently new friends and old….My Profile

    • This plant makes an excellent privacy barrier. It is also an excellent choice for a large open space. It is definitely about the right plant in the right spot. I have several with the understanding that I have to actively prune them. I wanted the habitat and fruit for birds. I also wanted something that would be fragrant.
      Charlie@Seattle Trekker recently posted..SilverberryMy Profile

  3. We have a close relative of this here in Canada that we also call silverberry (or wolf willow). Elaeagnus commutata has many of the same characteristics as Elaeagnus pugens, including a slightly invasive nature that many people don’t care for. They are wonderful if sited properly, however – and as you say, are perfect for erosion control on slopes and in large open areas. I love the attractive foliage – I have a soft spot for silver and grey leaves.

  4. I don’t hink we have this here in NY, Charlie, but it sure is interesting.

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