The Best Berry Plants for Birds

Invite flocks to your backyard by planting fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, and groundcovers in your landscape.

By Marty Ross and Justin W. Hancock


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Blue Jay
1/19

    Feeding birds comes naturally when you grow trees and shrubs with nutritious berries. The plants you'll find in this slideshow do double duty: They attract birds and create a beautiful display with their flowers, fall colors, and fruits adding sparkle to your landscape.

2/19
American Cranberry Viburnum

    American cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) is a handsome shrub that has white springtime flowers, maple-shape leaves that turn bright colors in autumn, and red fall berries. Brown Thrashers, Cedar Waxwings, and other birds feast on the long-lasting fruits, which serve birds well in tough winters. It grows 8-12 feet tall and wide but can be kept smaller with pruning. Zones 2-7

3/19
Red-Twig Dogwood

    A standout in winter because of its bold red stems, red-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) also features clusters of small white flowers in spring, white fruits in summer and fall, and bold red-orange autumn color. It grows 6 feet tall and is native to areas of North America. Zones 2-8

4/19
Chokeberry

    Brown Thrashers are fond of chokeberries (Aronia arbutifolia) and so are Cedar Waxwings and other songbirds. It grows 6-10 feet tall in sun or part shade and tolerates moist and dry sites. It spreads by suckering and is a good choice for a hedge. This shrub is indigenous to areas of North America. Zones 4-9

5/19
Wahoo

    A North American native counterpart to burning bush, wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) likes a moist, sunny spot. It produces bright scarlet berries in autumn. It bears red fall color and makes for an attractive informal hedge. Wahoo grows 20 feet tall. Zones 3-7

6/19
Eastern Red Cedar

    Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is an evergreen North American native tree that can reach 65 feet tall. It provides birds with a great source of shelter, and female plants offer blue berrylike cones eaten by many birds. It grows best in full sun. Zones 3-9

7/19
Staghorn Sumac

    A fast-growing, quick-spreading shrub indigenous to parts of North America, staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) offers ferny leaves that turn bold red in fall. It also features clusters of furry dark red fruit that hold on through the winter, supplying a variety of birds including robins and vireos. It grows 15 feet tall. Zones 3-8

    Note: Staghorn sumac may be too aggressive of a spreader for most gardens. Be sure to plant it in a spot where it can create a thicket.

8/19
Winterberry

    Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) often go unnoticed in a summer garden, but they stop traffic when the leaves drop in autumn and the berries ripen. Branches laden with bright red fruit attract mockingbirds, robins, and other birds. This North American native holly needs a pollinator to produce berries, so buy both a male and female plant. Zones 3-9

9/19
Crabapple

    Most gardeners grow crabapples (Malus selections) for the ornamental value of their prodigious spring blooms. The fruits, however, are the apples of birds' eyes. To attract the greatest variety of songbirds, select cultivars with small fruits that hang on through the winter. Zones 4-8

10/19
Highbush Blueberry

    Gray Catbirds nest in highbush blueberry (Vaccinum corymbosum), a dense shrub that grows 6-12 feet tall and produces delicious berries for cereal, muffins, and blueberry pies. Bluebirds, robins, and many other birds take their fair share, too. This North American native offers good eye appeal, as well, thanks to its bright red-orange fall color. Plant it in sun or part shade with well-drained, acidic soil.

11/19
Beautyberry

    Showy clusters of purple fruit make beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) attractive to both birds and flower arrangers. The arching wands of berries last a long time in the garden or a vase and provide nutrition and moisture for birds in winter. Beautyberry thrives in light shade but produces more berries in a sunny spot. It can grow 4 feet tall. Zones 6-8

12/19
Serviceberry

    Robins, thrushes, and other birds are quick to eat the fruits of serviceberry (Amelanchier selections), a small tree or large shrub, depending on the variety. Types range from 4 to 25 feet tall, but all offer pretty springtime blooms and great fall color. Zones 4-9, depending on type. Most are native to North America.

13/19
Bunchberry

    Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is a pretty little groundcover native to areas of North America with leaves, flowers, and berries that look remarkably like those of its cousin, flowering dogwood. It thrives in moist, shady spots and grows 4-6 inches tall. The white flowers sparkle in a woodland garden in spring; the berries turn red in autumn and are a favorite of vireos. It is not invasive. Zones 2-7

14/19
Arrowwood Viburnum

    Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) is a particularly good shelter plant for birds. Hardy and adaptable, it grows 8-12 feet tall and features pretty, creamy white flower clusters in early summer. In late summer and autumn, bunches of blue-black berries appear. Plant near other viburnums to ensure good pollination. It is native to areas of North America. Zones 3-8

15/19
Pagoda Dogwood

    Downy Woodpeckers, Brown Thrashers, Eastern Bluebirds, and many other backyard birds are attracted to the dark fruits of North American native pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), a small tree suitable for the edges of woodland areas or partly shaded landscapes. Pagoda dogwood has a handsome horizontal branching habit. Creamy white flower clusters are displayed above the leaves. Zones 4-8

16/19
Nannyberry

    This hardy shrub or small tree (Viburnum lentago) from North America has glossy, dark green leaves and drooping clusters of berries in early fall. It grows up to 10 feet tall in sunny or partly shaded spots. Nannyberry can be pruned to form a hedge or grown at the back of a border. The berries ripen to blue-black and last well into winter to feed overwintering birds. Zones 2-8

17/19
American Elder

    This spreading, 12-foot-tall shrub best suits moist spots in sun or light shade. Elder (Sambucus canadensis) thickets give excellent shelter and are favored nesting sites. Enormous, creamy flower clusters the size of dinner plates in summer precede purple berries in fall that attract dozens of different birds. Zones 4-9

18/19
Heavenly Bamboo

    A landscape favorite for its feathery foliage and clusters of white flowers that turn into bright red fruits, heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is also a good bet for attracting birds. The berries stay on the plants well into winter, providing food for birds during the cold months. Zones 6-9

    Note: Heavenly bamboo may be considered invasive in some areas; check local restrictions before planting it.

19/19
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