The Best Berry Plants for Birds
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.
American Cranberry Viburnum
American cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) is a handsome flowering 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
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
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
Related: How to Plant a Hedge
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
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
Related: Fast-Growing Evergreens for Privacy
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
Editor's 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.
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
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
Related: Try These Crabapples in Your Yard
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 blueberries in sun or part shade with well-drained, acidic soil.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Cranberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus) is a low, arching, and mounding shrub with glossy leaves and red fruits. Good for slope, terrace, or foundation planting, most varieties deliver bountiful red berries in autumn that persist into the winter. You can choose from compact, upright shrubs to easy groundcovers to big plants ideal for hedges. Zones 4-7
The dense, thorny branches of this semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub provide good shelter and nesting places as well as berries. A dense covering of red-orange berries wrap firethorn's (Pyrancantha spp.) branches in the fall, adding fall color that adds winter interest to the garden. The berries are preceded by white flowers in summer. Zones 7-9
Burning bush (Euonumus alatus) bears leaves that turn a bold flame red in fall with reddish-purple berries. This vigorous shrub grows up to 8 feet tall and provides shelter and nesting sites as well as fruit and seeds. The shrub is low maintenance and good for privacy hedges. Zones 4-9
Related: Planting for Colorful Fall Foliage
Rose hips—the fruit of roses (Rosa spp.)—vary in size and color, but all prove delectable to birds and other wildlife. There are heirloom roses, climbing roses, groundcover roses, English tea roses, and more—and all have the ability to produce rose hips. The most common type of rose used to produce rose hips is Rosa canina. Zones 4-11