6 Winter-Hardy Ornamental Berry Bushes

Add some color to your landscape with these cold-hardy shrubs.

by Jessica Walliser
PHOTO: Jessica Walliser

One of the best ways to add interest to the winter garden is to include berry-producing, ornamental shrubs in your landscape. While many hobby farmers focus on growing edible berries for humans, it’s important to remember there’s great value in growing berries for their ornamental features, as well. Not to mention how much these berries can help support birds and other wildlife throughout the winter.

Here are some of the best, winter-hardy, ornamental shrubs with branches that are filled with colorful berries. These plants are capable of adding loads of interest to the winter garden while they also support local wildlife.

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

This deciduous holly is native to North America, and female plants have branches that are absolutely smothered with berries every autumn. Like most hollies, male and female flowers are born on separate plants, so you’ll need one male for every four or five females. Though most varieties bear red berries, some cultivars produce orange or yellow berries instead.

Possomhaw (Viburnum nudum)

The creamy white, spring flowers of this viburnum are attractive to bees and other pollinators, and they have a subtle, sweet fragrance. But, they’re nothing compared to the berries that follow every autumn. As the berries mature, they go from light pink to dark blue, eventually aging to a purplish-black. There are often multiple colors on each berry cluster at the same time. In fall, the foliage of this deciduous shrub turns a deep red. It’s native to eastern North America and prefers full sun to part shade.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma)

The arching branches of the beautyberry (pictured above) are covered in clusters of the most glorious, bright-purple berries. This 5-foot-tall shrub is multi-stemmed and looks great tucked into a perennial border or foundation planting. The berried branches make lovely accents in fall floral arrangements.

Cranberry Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum)

This North American native bears flat-topped clusters of beautiful, white flowers every spring that are followed by red berries in autumn. This multi-stemmed shrub is globular with leaves that are maple-shaped. Extremely hardy, cranberry viburnum matures at 10 to 12 feet in height and width, but it can be pruned to maintain a smaller stature.

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Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

This 10-foot-tall shrub grows in full to partial shade, and it grows well even in lousy or water-logged soil. Chokeberry spreads by suckers, so plant it where it has plenty of room to grow. The spring flowers are followed by clusters of tiny, wine-red berries, and the green foliage turns a brilliant crimson every fall. Plus, they’re edible.

Elderberry (Sambucus)

The long, arching stems of this vase-shaped shrub are smothered with large clusters of dark purple or red berries late every summer. The lacey foliage and flat clusters of early summer flowers are quite lovely as well, making this shrub a standout in the landscape. The berries are often used to make elderberry jam, wine and other products, but even if you don’t plan to harvest a single berry, this plant is definitely worth growing.

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