Native shrubs and trees are the best choices for wildlife, as they provide food to a variety of insects and birds. Their flowers appeal to bees and other pollinators. Woody shrubs also provide shelter and breeding places for wildlife.
Insects such as butterflies use shrubs as natural windbreakers. Birds can set up their nests in your garden shrubs, while some insects may find them suitable to live in. The shrubs also provide shade and cover for animals from rough sunlight and rainfall.
Great wildlife-Friendly shrubs to grow in your garden
1. Hazelnut/ Corylus avellana
- Native hazels grow as shrubs.
- Their nuts are fit for consumption by humans and wildlife.
- You can plant the American hazelnut or the beaked hazelnut.
- Its nuts are preferred by many mammals and large birds.
- Small animals use them for cover.
2. Hawthorn/ Crataegus
- They are spreading deciduous trees that may reach a height of 40 ft.
- They are a good choice for wildlife gardens.
- Birds can build nests on them and take shelter in the branches.
- They thrive best in sunny locations, where they bloom in the spring.
- Best for birds and butterflies.
3. Scarlet firethorn/Pyracantha coccinea
Zones 5-6 or 9.
- They are open and lanky, but can be pruned into shapely shrubs.
- Best grown in your hedge or against your wall.
- Evergreen shrubs with white flowers that bloom in late spring.
- Attracts birds to your garden.
- They grow up to 15 ft. tall, but are easy to train.
- Firethorn’s branches are good shelter for birds, while some eat their berries.
- Grow best when exposed to sunlight.
- It is best to look for disease resistant varieties for your garden as they are susceptible to fire blight.
4. Flowering Dogwood/ Cornus florida
- Attracts birds and butterflies to your lawn.
- It is a small deciduous tree that grows to about 20ft tall.
- It has berries that are of interest to birds.
- It is dense and twiggy and thus offers shelter to birds and insects.
5. Spicebush/ Lindera benzoin
- Grows best in full sunlight but thrives in shady environments.
- Provides food to caterpillars, insects and birds such as songbirds and gamebirds.
- Their berries are extensively eaten by wood thrushes.
- It is a delicious shrub, rising to 12ft tall and spanning 6 inches wide.
Easiest shrubs to maintain
1. Dwarf Alberta Spruce/ Picea glauca
- It requires little maintenance.
- It has a formal look which makes it great for your lawn.
2. Skyrocket Juniper/ Juniperus scopulorum
- An evergreen shrub that grows tall and skinny.
- Little maintenance is needed because it does not support a lot of foliage growth.
3. Virginia sweetspire/ Itea virginica
- Zones 4-9.
- Deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub
- Reaches a height of 8ft.
- Grows best in slightly acidic soils, and partial sunlight.
- Forms dense colonies and is suitable for erosion control in wet areas.
- It blooms during spring.
4. Spicebush/ Lindera benzoin
- A low-growing plant native to North America.
- Can grow well in average and well-drained soils.
- Requires full sunlight or partial shade.
- Little maintenance work is needed for this plant.
- It grows to around 2-3 meters and is therefore ideal for a small garden.
- You do not need to prune as it negatively impacts the flowering process.
- They grow slowly, therefore easy to control.
- The only maintenance needed is cutting off flowers with faded colors.
6. Possumhaw/ Ilex decidua
- Deciduous, low-maintenance shrub.
- Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade conditions.
- Attracts birds and pollinators.
- It can be grown along steps and borders.
- It grows to about 12 ft tall.
- Requires minimal pruning.
Evergreen shrubs for Wildlife
1. Boxwood/ Buxus sempervirens
- Grows well when exposed to sun or partial shade.
- Matures at 2-4 ft. tall and wide.
- It is an evergreen shrub that is easy to prune.
- Ideal for creating borders and formal hedges.
- It grows fast and will fill your landscape quickly.
2. Oregon Grape/ Mahonia aquifolium
- Grows well under partial or full shade.
- Matures at 3-6ft tall and 2-5ft wide.
- Blooms during spring.
- Flowers through all seasons and produces berries in late summer that are edible by certain animals.
3. Mountain Laurel/ Kalmia latifolia
- Matures are 5-15 tall high and wide.
- Requires full sunlight or partial shade.
- Blooms throughout spring.
- Its flowers are ideal for pollinators, and its evergreen leaves add interest to your garden.
4. Daphne/ Carol Mackie
- Good choice for shrub borders and screens.
- It has vibrant flowers that can improve the aesthetic of your walkway.
- Grows to a height of 4ft.
- Blooms from late fall through winter.
- Grows when exposed to partial shade or full sun.
- It flowers in the winter and is thus appropriate for shelter and food for hibernating insects.
5. American Arbovitae/ Thuja occidentalis
- Requires full sun or partial shade.
- Medium-sized tree growing to a maximum of 60ft.
- It is easy to grow and requires little maintenance.
Evergreen shrubs offer year-round habitat and protection from predators for birds. Particularly dense shrubs such as firethorn and barberry are best for your garden. Ensure that your shrubs grow around walls or fences to create definitive boundaries for wildlife.
How to choose wildlife-friendly shrubs
- Plant shrubs that produce a lot of flowers and fruits. Good examples are holly, firethorn, hawthorn and cotoneaster. In the spring you can plant Barberry, Guelder rose and Currant. In summer plant English lavender, Honeysuckle and Hebe. Your shrubs should flower at different times of the year. However, you should focus on those that bloom during early spring to feed insects following the winter.
- Choose shrubs indigenous to your location. They will fulfill the needs of native wildlife better than invasive species. You should also consider soil type, moisture and climate preferred by each plant.
- Make sure that your garden has both soft mast and hard mast shrubs. Increase the variety of your garden by going beyond berries and birds. Consider shrubs that offer nectar, leaves and twigs as food for insects, mammals and birds.
Maintain your shrubs regularly through weeding and mulching in early spring. Non-diseased shrub prunings should be left at the base of the plant and along borders. This reduces the need for weeding and helps to retain moisture in the soil. You will deter the growth of weeds that emerge when you disturb the soil continually.
Are azaleas good for wildlife?
Yes, Azaleas are valuable for a variety of wildlife, especially if the shrub species is native to your continent. They provide nectar for pollinators. Azaleas can grow in a handful of environments, even through the winter months. They also offer good ground cover.
They grow in zones 3-9 depending on the variety. They reach a height of 1-8ft. They bloom in the middle of spring and late summer for some species. Azaleas can be evergreen or deciduous.
Stewartstonian Azalea grows in zones 5-8. It requires partial shade and well-drained soil. They thrive in areas where exotic plants fail. They add an informal quality to the home landscape.
Native azaleas are disease-free and therefore low maintenance. Pruning azaleas is discouraged as it affects their graceful foliage and flowers.
There are a variety of wildlife-friendly shrubs that you can grow in your home garden. You can cultivate certain shrubs to attract different wildlife to your garden. Native shrubs perform well and are of high interest to local wildlife. You should consider evergreen shrubs for your lawn to ensure animals are well catered for all year round.
Native shrubs are very valuable to certain mammals, birds and insects. Choose evergreen, low-maintenance shrubs for your landscape. You can choose any shrubs from the selections presented above and you will improve the interest in your garden and create a friendly environment for the local wildlife.