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Berries to brighten the season.

As winter descends and summer's colorful flowering plants have long since faded, your garden needn't retreat into the winter doldrums. Strategically planted trees, shrubs, and ground covers produce a colorful show of bright yellow, orange, red, or violet berries to brighten the landscape even through winter's coldest, bleakest days.

Apart from their obvious aesthetic value, berries produced by plants like holly, pyracantha, and toyon perform as giant bird feeders, providing food for hungry creatures at a time of short supply.

And even when the last berry has been devoured, these plants don't stop giving. All the plants listed here are highly valued for their year-round good looks. Many produce attractive flowers; all have handsome foliage.

Depending on their size and form, these plants may be used as background shrubs, foundation plants, or focal points. The small trees make attractive accents near a patio. The ground covers and sprawling shrubs provide the greatest effect when massed together.


The 13 plants listed below are widely adapted to a variety of conditions. The climate zones in our list are taken from the Sunset Western Garden Book. Before choosing one of these plants, check the list to see if it's adapted to your area. Also, select varieties that will fit the given space in your garden.

To encourage the greatest berry production, allow plants to grow naturally. Don't shear them into hedges or mounds; prune only to shape. A few will produce fruit only if male plants are nearby to pollinate them.


Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo). Evergreen shrub 8 to 35 feet tall. Dwarf varieties stay smaller (about 5 feet). Urn-shaped flowers and strawberry-like fruit appear together. Full sun. Zones 4-24.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion'). Deciduous shrub 6 to 10 feet tall. Small lilac flowers in 1-inch-wide clusters are followed by long-lasting violet berries. Full sun. Zones 1-9, 14-17.

Red cestrum (C. elegans). Evergreen, vinelike shrub with arching branches to 10 feet tall or more. Masses of purplish red, 1-inch-long flowers followed by bright red fruit. Part shade. Zones 13, 15-17, 19-24.

Cotoneaster. Many handsome and tough evergreen and deciduous ground covers and shrubs. Most have bright red to orange fruit. Evergreen C. dammeri 'Coral Beauty' has brilliant coral fruit and is prostrate. Deciduous C. horizontalis grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Evergreen C. lacteus has arching growth to 8 feet or more. Full sun. Zones vary.

Hawthorn (Crataegus). Deciduous trees to 25 feet tall. Showy pink, red, or white flowers in spring are followed by colorful red fruit. Washington thorn (C. phaenopyrum) produces the best display of fruit and is also disease resistant. Don't plant over sidewalks. Full sun. Zones 1-12, 14-17.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). Evergreen shrub or small tree 10 to 25 feet tall. Small white flowers are followed by clusters of bright red berries. Full sun or part shade. Zones 5-24.

Holly (Ilex). Many kinds of evergreen shrubs including Chinese holly (needs long warm season to set fruit), English holly (needs male and female to produce fruit), San Jose holly, and yaupon holly. Full sun to shade (best show of berries in sun). Zones vary.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera). Vigorous evergreen or deciduous vines or shrubs with often-fragrant, tubular flowers. Scarlet fruit follows on L. korolkowii, L. maackii, L. periclymenum 'Berries Jubilee', and L. tatarica. Full sun (light shade in inland areas). Zones vary.

Crabapple (Malus). Many varieties of deciduous trees with pink, red, or white flowers followed by colorful purplish red, red, or orange-red fruit. Some kinds are used for jelly. Full sun. Zones 1-21.

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica). Evergreen shrub from 1 to 6 feet tall, depending on variety. Colorful red fruit forms when plants are grouped. Full sun or shade. Zones 5-24.

Pyracantha. Many different varieties of evergreen upright or sprawling shrubs 3 to 15 feet tall. All produce a profuse crop of red to orange berries. Full sun. Zones vary.

Skimmia (S. japonica). Slow-growing, compact evergreen shrubs 2 to 5 feet tall bear tiny white flowers in spring. Bright red berries on females if a male is present. Light to moderate shade (full shade inhibits bloom). Zones 4-9, 14-22 (best in 4--6, 17).

Mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia). Deciduous tree to 30 feet tall with a dense, oval crown. Flat clusters of 3- to 5-inch flowers in spring are followed by orange-red, pink, or white fruit in midsummer. Full sun. Zones 1-10, 14-17.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes list of 13 winter berries
Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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