Berry Bushes for the Birds

Bonnie Nowicki, MG

Winter has arrived! While most of our landscapes are quietly sleeping, several berry-bearing plants are taking over the garden spotlight. These hardy shrubs not only bring riotous colors of red, orange, and blue; they attract quite a crowd of hungry native birds. Just remember the three necessities for our feathered friends are shelter, water, and, of course, food.

Pyracantha, also known as firethorn, will light up your garden for months with its orange-red berries. It is easy to grow and maintain when allowed to follow its natural growth habit. In fact, the plant looks best and produces more berries when it goes natural. Prune only wayward branches. This show stopper is a real favorite of birds; especially the Cedar Waxwings.

Viburnum is tolerant of most soils and boasts brilliantly colored fruit, including red and blue varieties. Hungry birds will especially appreciate this fruiting shrub. Wolfberry, native to the Sonoran Desert is an excellent wildlife plant. It provides good cover and yummy fruit for the birds. Gray Thorn is a deciduous, low litter shrub with blue-black fruit and is also great for attracting birds. The evergreen Desert Hackberry is a dense, upright shrub with attractive orange berries, and the deciduous Canyon Hackberry has tiny orange berries the birds relish.

A great informal hedge of evergreen Barberry, native to the Chihuahuan Desert, has red berries that attract many birds, and the evergreen Hop Bush has decorative papery fruits that are irresistible to our feathered friends. Small doses of color in our landscape can make a strong statement; so, consider including a berry bush for the birds.

A quick reminder: Frost cloth is available for sale at the Master Gardener Pima County Extension Center located on Whitehouse Canyon Road. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. The phone number is 520-648-0808.

Here’s a refresher on proper frost cloth placement. Completely drape the plant from top all the way to the ground. Do not allow any openings for warmth to escape. Do not gather the drape around the trunk. The goal is to trap heat radiating from the ground, so ensure that the drape touches the ground. Good luck!