An ideal way to add color to a late fall/early winter garden is to plant shrubs that have berries. In addition to adding another season of interest and color, you’ll also find your garden is alive with a variety of birds and small animals. You can find berries in a wide array of colors. Just keep in mind the intensity of the color of berries can vary from year to year, just like foliage color. Soil conditions, rainfall amounts and the air temperature when the berries are ripening all influence the timing and color intensity of berries.
Here’s a very abbreviated list of shrubs with interesting berries which will persist into late fall and early winter and can easily be incorporated into almost any garden.
Shrubs with red berries:
Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokeberry) – zones 4 -9 . Aronia is a true multi-season plant. White flowers in the spring give way to red berries that ripen in the late summer. Fall foliage can be bright red, making Aronia a good native alternative to the invasive burning bush (Euonymos alatus). Birds are not interested in the berries until they’ve been through a few frosts so you can be assured chokeberries will remain on the shrubs well into the late fall. Aronia tolerates wet and dry soil and full sun to partial shade and is highly effective used in mass in a woodland garden. Aronia typically matures at 6′ x 3′ but there are smaller cultivars available. Aronia is considered to be deer resistant.
- Cotoneaster - zones 5 – 7. Cotoneasters are low-growing, spreading shrubs that make excellent ground covers in both shady and sunny locations. They look right at home scrambling over rocks walls and steep slopes. Some are deciduous and others are evergreen but all have red berries in the fall. Cotoneasters of special interest are Little Gem creeping cotoneaster (Cotoneaster adpressus ‘Little Gem’), variegated cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis ‘Variegatus’) and willowleaf cotoneaster (Cotoneaster salicifolius ‘Repens’). Cotoneaster is considered moderately deer resistant.
- Viburnum trilobum (American cranberrybush) – zones 2 – 7. This large (10′ x 10′) native shrub has white flowers in late May, red fall foliage and bright scarlet berries in late fall though winter. Smaller cultivars such as ‘Wentworth’ and ‘Compacteum’ are also available. American cranberrybush is not generally not considered deer resistant.
Shrubs with white berries:
- Nandina domestica ‘Alba’ (Heavenly Bamboo ‘Alba’) zones 6 – 9. Alba is an evergreen, upright shrub that prefers well-draining soil and full sun to partial shade. but is adaptable to many growing conditions. Color comes from white flowers in the spring and creamy white berries in the fall. Unlike many other Nandina’s, Alba does not have any reddish tinge to its leaves. Nandina is considered moderately deer resistant.
- Symphoricarpos albus (Common Snowberry) zones 3 – 7. This fast-growing native shrub has attractive blue-green leaves most of the year but it’s the snow-white berries from September through early winter that make this medium-sized shrub an interesting addition to your garden. Common snowberry tolerates full sun to shade and virtually any soil type. Common snowberry is especially useful planted in mass in a shady area. Remember to give it lots of room since it spreads by suckers quite easily.
Shrubs with yellow berries:
- Ilex opaca ‘Xanthocarpa’ (Yellow berry American holly) zones 5 – 9. A North American native broad-leafed evergreen shrub with distinctive yellow berries. American hollies grow in full sun – partial shade and tolerate a variety of soil conditions. ‘Xanthocarpa’ grows to about 20′ x 8′ and is an excellent specimen tree. American hollies are considered deer resistant.
- Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ (Linden viburnum) zones 5 – 7. This tall, dense shrub thrives in shade and is deer-resistant. During the fall, it is covered with yellow berries at the same time the foliage is turning varying shades of bronze and burgundy. Plant in mass for the best effect.
What kinds of shrubs do you use in your garden for late fall and early winter color and interest? I’d love to hear about your favorites so I can add them to my list.