Growing the Best Ornamental Bushes with Berries

Ilona Erwin

Most of thoughts about ornamental bushes gravitate towards those which bloom in the spring. We are in love with the flowers of spring, their fragrance and color. Some shrubs are even iconic of the beginning of our gardening season: lilacs, forsythias, witch hazels. However, in this post I would like to direct your attention to the best ornamental bushes with berries, plants with bright and colorful fruits.

Berries are a source of color (sometimes fleeting), food for birds and wildlife, and an extension of garden interest into other months of the growing season.

Black Laceâ„¢ Elderberry, Sambucus nigra

This is one of my favorite berried bushes. I planted one against an outbuilding a few years ago and it has grown into a large graceful shrub that garners numerous compliments and questions. The lacy purple foliage attracts attention.

  • Hardy in zones 4-7
  • 6-8′ tall
  • Prefers sun or part-sun

Fairly easy to grow, there are inky purple berries to harvest, but they are not long lasting. Usually the birds will beat you to them. The flowers and berries are both used medicinally, but the green parts are poisonous.

It is a rangy shrub with weak branches, but that makes it, with its filigree foliage all the more graceful.

Tom Thumb Cotoneaster

This took quite awhile to become established for me- it is a slow grower, but it is reliably compact. In very cold winters it has had some dieback, but after some spring grooming, bounced back and lent its fine textured  green leaves along the driveway.

  • Hardy in zones 5-7
  • 6 to 12 inches tall
  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Cotoneasters is a wide ranging family of shrubs that have small leaves, flowers, and berries. One of my favorites is the ‘Rockspray’, but this low growing variety is one of the most useful for gardens of any size. The C. horizontalis can get large and throw its curving branches in a wide arc.

Modern gardens can only utilize a few shrubs of that size, so when a true dwarf like ‘Tom Thumb‘ is available, it is a gem of a find. The branching is compact and stays low, the leaves are a good green and look wonderful all season, while the little red berries appear in the fall. The foliage also turns reddish in fall.

 

Other Cotoneasters You’ll Love

  • Cotoneaster apiculatus
  • Cotoneaster divaricatus

Viburnum Trilobum, Blackhaw, Bush With Berries

If you have room for this, it has spectacular red fruits. Viburnums are one of the best bushes with berries due to their all season interest.

This is a native shrub, which means it is a prime foodsource for wildlife.

  • Hardy in zones 5-8
  • 8-10′ tall and 6-8 feet wide
  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Look for the ‘Redwing’ cultivar if you can find it. One of the things this plant has going for it is the low maintenance demands. It will create a wonderful specimen in a short period of time.

Another garden-worthy berried Viburnum: ‘Cardinal Candy’ Viburnum dilatatum ‘Henneke’. Somewhat shorter and more rounded shape makes it a good cold hardy shrub for screening or to fill in a corner spot.

V. nudum “Brandywine’ tolerates a wide range of soils. It also grows to a more moderate 6 foot height. The affiliate link will take you to the Nature Hills site which is a dependable source for a shrub that otherwise could be hard to locate. Its berries are pink and blue.

Rhus Typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’

I grew up with a Staghorn Sumach in my yard, and the red upright berried fruits were always a fascination.

This newer variety has all sorts of features that make it outstanding for a garden.

  • Hardy in zones
  • 3-6′ tall and wide
  • Full Sun (best) to Partial Shade

It has finely cut foliage in a golden green in spring that turns orange in fall. Those closely packed cones of berries will highlight the late garden. Looking beautiful at all times, and it is no trouble to grow if given well drained location with regular moisture.

Nature Hills is a source for this shrub.

 

‘Mohave’ Pyracantha with Orange Berries

Not everyone loves them, but I do. I train one up the side of my house, but they are likely to sprawl if given their own way. The bright orange berries and glossy foliage make them a real showoff in the fall, and birds love to eat them, and nest in them!

  • Hardy in zones 5-9
  • 10-15 ‘ tall and wide
  • Full Sun (best) to Partial Shade

I purchased the ‘Mohave’ pyracantha and planted it more than thirty years ago. It has suffered times when we hacked it down to paint the house, but has always grow well and offered a dependable crop of fruits for visual beauty and the birds delight. Robins are especially partial to them during the winter months.

I would always include one within the garden somewhere, unless the yard was the size of a postage stamp. They are terribly prickly, however. Actually, the thorns are quite wicked; which makes the shrub an excellent deterrent for undesirable foot traffic.

This is a very good prospect for espalier work, growing the trained branches in decorative ways, or simply as a vertical feature. I have written a number of posts on this shrub otherwise known as a “firethorn”, because I happen to like it so well. The orange color of the berries is far showier than any of the red types.

They are often hedged, but I prefer the use of espalier methods.

Many Shrubbery Choices

It is astounding how many shrubs have berries. Many that I have not had the chance to grow and some that I do, but consider their fruiting something of an afterthought.

For instance… the Viburnum Carlesii, which is one of my most treasured plantings, with its lovely fragrance in spring. It produces oblong berries that are briefly attractive, but quickly turn a blackish color. Or the Berberis, which I grow for the gorgeous color of the foliage. They also have fruits, but are now somewhat controversial to plant because they are not native and their berries are inferior bird nutrition.

V. carlesii berries

V. carlesii berries

This small collection of some of the best berried bushes is meant to give you ideas and inspiration for adding the sparkle of colorful fruit to the layered tapestry of autumn and the sometimes dreary early winter months.

What About Bushes With Berries Not On This Short List?

You might ask why I didn’t include the excellent Aronia, or those winter stand-bys, the Hollies. If you have more acid pH than I do, with the right soil conditions and moisture… they would be among the best- for you. The lesson to take away is that my list of best shrubs is restricted to what grows well for me, and this is the rule for which you can best design your home garden.

A Few Final Words

Plant for beauty, but keep in mind that healthy, well grown landscape plants create the best choice for your yard. Remember to pay attention to pH requirements, drainage, and hardiness tolerance in the descriptions of plants. Place it well, so that there is space for the shrub to grow without crowding or interference. Good luck with all your growing endeavors and do place bushes with berries inside your garden for the beauty of both the fruit and the birds they attract.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.