These useful screening plants grow fast when young, becoming dense, full, rm, and toughand they do it with little upkeep. However, birds spread the seeds and they can be weedy. All tolerate seashore conditions, heat, and wind. Established plants will tolerate considerable drought. Resistant to damage by deer.
Evergreen kinds serve a prime role as screening plants and are also useful as natural espaliers, clipped hedges, and high bank covers. Their foliage is distinguished by silvery (sometimes brown) dots on leaves; these reflect sunlight, giving the plants their distinctive sparkle. Both evergreen and deciduous sorts bear insignificant but usually fragrant flowers that are followed by decorative fruit (typically red with silvery flecks).
E. angustifolia. RUSSIAN OLIVE. Deciduous tree. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native from Europe to Asia. To 20 ft. high and wide, but can be clipped as medium-height hedge. Angular trunk and branches (sometimes thorny) are covered by shredding dark brown bark that is picturesque in winter. Bark contrasts with narrow, willowlike, silvery gray leaves to 2 in. long. Small, very fragrant greenish yellow owers in early summer are followed by berrylike fruit resembling miniature olives. Can take almost any kind of punishment, including hot summers, bitterly cold winters, drought, poor soil. Doesn't do as well in mild winters or very humid summers. Good background plant, barrier.
E.ebbingei. Evergreen shrub. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Hybrid derived from E. pungens. More upright (to 1012 ft. high and wide) than its parent, with thornless branches. Leaves are 24 in. long; they are silvery on both sides when young, later dark green above and silvery beneath. Tiny, fragrant, silvery owers in fall. Red fruit makes good jelly. 'Gilt Edge' has striking yellow leaf margins.
E. multiflora. CHERRY ELAEAGNUS. Deciduous shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. From China and Japan. To 610 ft. high and wide. Leaves are 12 in. long, silvery green above, silvery brown below. Small, fragrant spring flowers followed by bright orange-red, -in.-long berries on 1-in. stalks; fruit is edible but tart, loved by birds. 'Variegata' has leaves variegated with gold, yellow, and cream; its berries are red.
E. pungens. THORNY ELAEAGNUS, SILVERBERRY. Evergreen shrub. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. From Japan. To 615 ft. tall and wide, with rather rigid, sprawling, angular habit. Long, naked shoots, some of them 56 ft. long, tend to skyrocket off in all directions, creating a Medusa-like appearance. Fortunately, these shoots can be pruned away (flower arrangers prize them) to give the shrub a neater look; it also can be sheared into a nice hedge. Grayish green, wavy-edged, 1- to 3-in.-long leaves have rusty dots that give them a brown tint; spiny branches are also covered with rusty dots. Shrub has an overall olive drab color. Small, fragrant, cream-colored blossoms appear in fall; the oval, -in.-long berries that follow are red with silvery dust. Tough container plant in reected heat and wind. Effective barrier plantingsgrowth is dense and twiggy, and spininess is a help, yet plants are not aggressively spiny. Will reseed.
The variegated forms listed below are more widespread than the species and have a brighter, lighter, and often startling look in the landscape; they are less hardy than the species, however, and may suffer damage in the Upper South. Be sure to cut out growth that reverts to green.
'Fruitlandii'. Large, silvery leaves.
'Maculata'. GOLDEN ELAEAGNUS. Leaves have gold blotch in center.
'Marginata'. SILVER-EDGE ELAEAGNUS. Silvery white leaf margins.
'Variegata'. YELLOW-EDGE ELAEAGNUS. Leaf edges yellowish white.
E. umbellata. AUTUMN OLIVE. Deciduous shrub. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From Himalayas, China, Japan. Spiny-branched plant to 1218 ft. high and wide, with an open, spreading shape. Elliptical, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves are bright green above, silvery green beneath. Small, silvery white, very fragrant flowers appear in mid- to late spring, followed by great quantities of tiny silvery berries that turn red as they ripen in fall. Fruit is tasty when fully ripe and can be eaten fresh or made into jam. Birds adore it and spread the seed, so be aware that this plant can be very weedy. Tolerates drought and poor soil. 'Titan' is upright and compact, to about 12 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide. Selections chosen for high-quality fruit include 'Brilliant Rose', 'Charlie's Golden', 'Delightful', and 'Jewel'. Plant is considered invasive in the Upper South.