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Best Plants For Birds

Updated on November 18, 2010

The Best Plants For Birds

When you grow trees and shrubs with nutritious berries feeding birds comes naturally. The plants you'll find in this lens do double duty: They attract birds and create a beautiful display with their flowers, fall colors, and fruits adding sparkle to any area in your landscape. I hope you enjoy the ones I have chose to share with you today. Questions and/or comments are ALWAYS welcome!

Red-Twig Dogwood

While most gardeners are more familiar with the tree-type dogwoods and their lovely big flowers, the shrubby forms are also garden champions that offer season-long beauty. A standout in winter because of its bold red stems, red-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) also features clusters of small white flowers in spring, white fruits in summer and fall, and bold red-orange autumn color. Most shrubby dogwoods offer the cheery spectacle of red or purple fruits clinging to bare branches that attract birds. Others bear brightly colored stems that shine against snowy-white or winter-gray backgrounds.

Zones: 3-8

Light: Sun,Part Sun

Plant Type: Shrub

Plant Height: To 25 feet tall, depending on type

Plant Width: To 20 feet wide, depending on type

Bloom Time: Blooms spring

Landscape Uses: Containers, Beds & Borders, Privacy, Slopes

Special Features: Flowers, Attractive Foliage, Fall Color, Winter Interest, Attracts Birds


Brown Thrashers are fond of chokeberries (Aronia arbutifolia) and so are Cedar Waxwings and other songbirds. It grows 6-10 feet tall in sun or part shade and tolerates moist and dry sites. It spreads by suckering and is a good choice for a hedge. This shrub is indigenous to areas of North America.

Zones 4-9

Light: Sun (Full, Partial Sun)

Plant Height: 6-10 feet tall

Plant Width: 3-5 feet wide


A North American native counterpart to burning bush, wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) likes a moist, sunny spot. It produces bright scarlet berries in autumn. It bears red fall color and makes for an attractive informal hedge. In summer, the wahoos are relatively inconspicuous, their small green or maroon flowers hardly noticeable among the leaves. But in the colder months, the wahoo is twice beautiful—first when its fall leaves turn brilliant red or pale yellow, and again when its fruits hang from bare limbs, their husks splitting to reveal the glossy seeds.

Zones: 3-8

Light: Sun to Part Shade

Plant Type: Shrub

Plant Height: 10-15 feet tall

Plant Width: 6-10 feet wide

Landscape Uses: Hedges, Beds & Borders, Screening

Special Features: Attracts Birds, Showy Fall Foliage, Showy Fruit

Staghorn Sumac

A fast-growing, quick-spreading shrub indigenous to parts of North America, staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) offers ferny leaves that turn bold red in fall. It also features clusters of furry dark red fruit that hold on through the winter, supplying a variety of birds including robins and vireos. It grows 15 feet tall. Zones 3-8

*Note: Staghorn sumac may be too aggressive of a spreader for most gardens. Be sure to plant it in a spot where it can create a thicket.


Most gardeners grow crabapples (Malus selections) for the ornamental value of their prodigious spring blooms. The fruits, however, are the apples of birds' eyes. To attract the greatest variety of songbirds, select cultivars with small fruits that hang on through the winter.

Crabapple's clustered pompom flowers light up the spring, but the trees attract even more attention in winter landscapes. Scarlet, gold, or orange fruit dangles from bare boughs, attracting flocks of birds. The craggy trunks and gnarled branches are also highly picturesque in mixed borders. Crabapple varieties flower either in white or pink to deep rose. They prefer a well-drained, acidic soil, but will tolerate heavier soils.

Zones: 3-8

Light: Sun

Plant Type: Tree

Plant Height: 15-25 feet tall

Plant Width: 15-25 feet wide

Landscape Uses: Containers, Beds & Borders, Privacy, Slopes ,Groundcover

Special Features: Flowers, Attractive Foliage, Fragrant, Fall Color, Winter Interest, Attracts Birds


Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) often go unnoticed in a summer garden, but they stop traffic when the leaves drop in autumn and the berries ripen. Branches laden with bright red fruit attract mockingbirds, robins, and other birds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. It has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. This North American native holly needs a pollinator to produce berries, so buy both a male and female plant.

Zones 3-9

Light: Sun

Plant Type: Tree, Shrub

Plant Height: 5-15 feet tall

Special Features: Flowers, Attractive Foliage, Fragrant, Fall Color, Winter Interest, Attracts Birds


Beautyberry is one shrub that's really earned its common name. Showy clusters of purple fruit make beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) attractive to both birds and flower arrangers. The bright color stands out, especially after the plant loses its leaves in the fall, the plant becomes a showstopper thanks to its clusters of small violet-purple fruits. The arching wands of berries last a long time in the garden or a vase and provide nutrition and moisture for birds in winter. Beautyberry thrives in light shade but produces more berries in a sunny spot.

The fruits develop from summer's clusters of small pink flowers and may attract several species of birds to your yard. Beautyberry blooms on fresh growth, so if you need to prune it, the best time to do so is late winter or early spring. In the coldest areas of its range, it's sometimes grown like a perennial in that the stems die back to the ground every year and are replaced by new shoots in the spring.

This adaptable shrub blooms well in full sun or part shade and is relatively drought tolerant.

Zones: 6-8

Light: Sun, Part Sun

Plant Type: Shrub

Plant Height: From 4 to 10 feet tall

Plant Width: From 4 to 8 feet wide

Flower Color: Pink / Rose

Bloom Time: Summer

Landscape Uses: Beds & Borders

Special Features: Attracts Birds, Attracts Butterflies, Easy to Grow

Pagoda Dogwood

The Pagoda dogwood has a handsome horizontal branching habit with creamy white flower clusters that are displayed above the leaves. This is a small tree, suitable for the edges of woodland areas or partly shaded landscapes. Downy Woodpeckers, Brown Thrashers, Eastern Bluebirds, and many other backyard birds are attracted to the dark fruits of North American native pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia).

Zones 4-8

Light: Sun, Part Sun

Plant Type: Tree

Plant Height: To 25 feet tall, depending on type

Plant Width: To 20 feet wide, depending on type

Bloom Time: Blooms spring

Special Features: Flowers, Attractive Foliage, Fall Color, Winter Interest, Attracts Birds

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