I recently visited the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., and as I walked through the outdoor display gardens, I spotted three shrubs that have been on my list of personal favorites for a very long time. It was great to see them in such a public setting, where they can be admired by tens of thousands of visitors every year. Because they aren’t very common in the typical American landscape, I heard many comments by passersby about the beautiful berries present on all of them.
What makes these three shrubs extra special is that it doesn’t take a green thumb to grow them. All are fairly easy to grow, requiring full to partial sun, native soil, and little else. They’re all native to North America, and their prime season of interest is in the fall and early winter due to the oodles of gorgeous berries they each bear. All are hardy from USDA zones 5 to 9, making them the perfect choice for many gardeners.
Possum Haw (Viburnum nudum)
This shrub caught my eye immediately, as a collection of pink and blue berries adorned the tip of every branch. Possum haw grows up to 8 feet tall, though some shorter cultivars exist. When the berries are new, they’re a soft pink, and they mature to a deep black-purple. When autumn temperatures drop, the glossy green foliage turns to a dark maroon. The fragrant white flowers are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators, and the berries are a favorite of songbirds. To optimize berry production, plant several bushes. This increases pollination and fruit set.
Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana)
This is a stupendous shrub, bearing incredible, glossy, bright-purple berries in large clusters along the length of each branch. In my opinion, this shrub has the most beautiful berries of all the natives. Reaching between 3 and 6 feet tall, beautyberry has a lovely vase-like shape with wispy, arching branches. The lavender blooms open in June, with the berries ripening in early September in the Northeast, where I live. It fruits most abundantly in full sun, though I’ve had success growing them in partial shade, as well.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Winterberry is a beautiful shrub. Many cultivars exist, each with its own attributes. The straight species can reach up to 15 feet tall, though plenty of shorter cultivars exist. I’m particularly fond of the varieties bearing orange berries rather than the traditional red. For something a bit more unusual, you may want to plant a golden-berried variety like Winter Gold or a pinkish one called Aurantiaca. Many species of birds enjoy the berries, and it’s a great plant for water-logged soils; plus it has very few insect or disease troubles.
I planted four winterberries on the side of our house specifically to enjoy the cut branches indoors during the holiday season. And, as with all species of holly, you’ll need to plant one male specimen for every five or six females. The males do not develop berries but the pollen is necessary for fruit production on the females.
If you’re looking for some new additions to your landscape that pack a powerful autumn punch, consider these three excellent choices. And drop by the U.S. Botanic Garden if you ever find yourself in Washington. The gardens are breathtaking.
Find more of Jessica’s favorite garden selections on HobbyFarms.com:
- 7 Self-Sowing Annuals I Love
- Yarrow: A Garden Spotlight Bees Will Love
- 5 Reasons to Let White Clover Grow In Your Lawn
- 13 Trees, Flowers and Shrubs to Turn a Muddy Yard Into a Garden You’ll Love
- 5 Unique Edibles to Try