Wildlife Gardening: Learn About Trees And Shrubs With Winter Berries

Shrub With Red Winter Berries
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Nikki Tilley)

Birdfeeders are not the best way to help wild birds survive the winter. Planting trees and shrubs with winter berries is the better idea. Plants with berries in winter are food sources that can save the lives of many types of wild birds and small mammals. Read on for information about winter berry plants for wildlife.

Plants with Berries in Winter

Brighten your backyard in winter by installing trees and shrubs with winter berries. Small fruits add a dash of color to winter scenes and, at the same time, winter berry trees and bushes provide an annual, reliable food supply for birds and other critters, whether or not you are around. Fruits are an extremely important source of nutrition for overwintering birds. Even birds that are insectivores in summer—like woodpeckers, thrashers, quail, robins, waxwings, mockingbirds, bluebirds, grouse and catbirds—start eating berries when cold weather arrives.

Best Winter Berry Plants for Wildlife

Any winter-fruiting plants are valuable for wildlife during the cold season. However, your best bets are native trees and shrubs with winter berries, those that naturally grow in your area in the wild. Many native winter berry trees and bushes produce astonishing amounts of fruit, and native plants require little care once they are established. The list of native winter berry plants for wildlife starts with holly (Ilex spp.) Holly shrubs/trees are lovely, with shiny green leaves that often stay on the tree all year long plus brilliant red berries. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly with a stunning fruit display. Cotoneaster (Coloneaster spp.) is another of the shrubs with winter berries beloved by the birds. Cotoneaster varieties include both evergreen and deciduous species. Both types keep their berries well into winter. Coralberry (Symphoricarpus orbiculatus) and beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.) are two other possible additions to your grouping of winter berry plants for wildlife. Coralberry produces round, red berries that pack densely along branches. Beautyberry changes the tune by producing branchfuls of purple berries.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.