5 Winter Berry Shrubs that Birds Love!

Tough weather conditions in the winter result in a scarcity of food for local wildlife. You can plant winter hardy, berry varieties to attract birds and other small animals to your garden in the winter. Birds will frequent your garden if you plant high-yielding, colorful shrubs that produce fruits in the fall. The berries are nutritious, with high fat and sugar content, helping to keep birds energized and warm during winter. 

Planty these berry-producing shrubs to bring birds to your garden in the winter:

1. Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)

Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)
Alabama Extension/Flickr

This slow-growing shrub native to North America is a perfect addition to your winter landscape. It is evergreen and has male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious). It produces greenish-white flowers during the spring.

The female plants bear red berries which ripen in the fall and persist through the winter. They are a favorite food for birds. The flowers also attract pollinators and butterflies to your garden.

This plant is commonly used as a Christmas decoration due to its dense fruiting branches. It matures at 10-20ft tall and 8-12ft wide. It requires pruning in the winter. Propagates by seeds and stem cuttings. It is ideal for planting as a privacy screen or windbreaker.

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Grows best in average, wet, well-drained, acidic or alkaline soils. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 7-9. 

2. Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Katja Schulz/Flickr

This deciduous, slow-growing shrub is native to North America. It has greenish-white flowers that bloom towards the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Red berries follow in the fall and remain through the winter.

They attract various birds such as jays, waxwings, robins and wild turkeys. The berries are also edible for humans. Winterberry livens up your winter landscape with its attractive berries and colorful foliage. The dark green leaves turn purple in the fall.

Plant both male and female plants in your garden to get berries. The plant matures at 6-10ft high and wide. It is low maintenance and relatively free of pests and diseases. Perfect for garden borders and as a specimen plant. Pruning is necessary in early spring to encourage the development of new blooms. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Grows well in average, moist, well-drained, acidic soils. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-9. 

3. Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
F. D. Richards/Flickr

A deciduous shrub native to North America. It produces fragrant, dense and dark-green foliage. The inconspicuous flowers bloom during spring and give way to gray or silver fruits in the fall. They ripen and persist into winter.

Warblers, bluebirds, swallows, woodpeckers and chickadees feed on the berries. It is dioecious and thus you should plant both male and female plants in your garden.

Northern Bayberry has a medium growth rate, maturing at 5-10ft high and wide. It is naturalized to coastal lands and sloped areas. It is perfect for privacy screens and hedges. It is highly resistant to drought. It deters deer from your garden. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Grows well in alkaline, sandy soils. It should be watered on a weekly basis in extremely hot climates. Tolerates soils with low fertility and high salt content. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 4-6. 

4. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Scott Rettberg/Flickr

The plant occurs as a large shrub or deciduous tree. It is native to North America. It produces star-shaped, green flowers that bloom in spring. They are followed by round, orange or red fruits in the summer, which remain through the fall and winter.

These berries are nutritious for sapsuckers, cardinals, tanagers, grosbeaks and bobwhites. In the summer, the plant is characterized by layered branches with green leaves. The foliage turns to purple and scarlet in the fall.

At full maturity, the bark turns gray-brown, maintaining color in your landscape throughout the winter. It grows at a medium pace to a height and width of 15-30ft. It is ideal for shrub borders and woodland gardens. Propagates by stem cuttings in the summer. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Grows well in fertile moist, acidic or neutral and well-drained soils. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 5-9. 

5. Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Katja Schulz/Flickr

A semi-evergreen shrub native to North America. It adds interest to your winter garden due to the clusters of red berries that are a favorite food for birds. Grouse, thrashers, waxwings and thrushes will frequent your garden in the winter to feed on the berries.

Chokeberry has light pink flowers that bloom during the spring. They provide value to pollinators and butterflies. The dark green foliage in the summer turns red in the fall. It grows to a height of 5-10ft and spreads 3-5ft wide.

It propagates by seeds, typically during fall. It is a great option for shrub borders, as a specimen plant, and for woodland gardens. Remove root suckers to control its spread. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Grows well in average, medium, well-drained, acidic or neutral soils. Tolerates different soil conditions. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 4-9. 

Plants that produce berries in the winter are valuable to birds and native wildlife. You can feed the birds through winter without having to build feeding cages or purchasing bird seed. Winter berry plants come in various sizes and variations. Choose the species that can grow in your location and benefit the local bird population.