Shrubs with Berries

Extend the season of colour

A surprising number of ornamental shrubs produce attractive berries, and some carry on into winter. As there is plenty of colour in the summer garden, it makes sense to select species which extend a glow into autumn and whiter.

Every shrub should have a definite role to play in the garden, whether it is providing shade or adding colour. Berries add an extra dimension to shrubs.

Evergreen shrubs ensure there is lush green foliage throughout the winter. Those with colourful fruits are an added bonus.

Choose the medium-sized Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Highlight’ for its arching stems, neat little leaves and profusion of bright orange-red berries. Or try C. microphylla, a dwarf species with compar­atively large, matt crimson fruits. For a large shrub, place C. salicifolius in a prominent position where its spreading habit, willow-shaped leaves and masses of red berries can be admired from afar.

shrubs with berriesFor a shady site, the various skimmias, such as Skimmia reevesiana, are hard to beat. They have a bushy, rounded habit, laurel-like leaves and clus­ters of crimson berries.


Although almost all berries look tempting and are food for birds, some are poisonous, especially to children. If young children are likely to roam the garden, do not grow Daphne mezereum, spindle (Euonymus), wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare) or pernettya.

Deciduous shrubs

Most of the really good berried shrubs are decidu­ous. Generally the fruit ripens, gradually becoming more conspicuous as the leaves fade and fall. A background of evergreens offsets red and orange fruits to perfection.

One of the best decid­uous berry producers is Viburnum betulifolium, a tall, spreading bush with drooping trusses of almost translucent red berries.

Some of the barberries can be relied upon to bear quantities of showy berries. Try the erect Berberis x carminea ‘Buccaneer’ or the small ‘Pirate King’, bearing crowds of smaller, fiery orange-red berries.

The related B. wilsoniae and B. aggregata both have large quantities of coral-red fruits.

Unusual colours

Berried shrubs are available in a range of colours but blue is the rarest. The sapphire berry (Symplocos paniculata) is one of the most striking.

It has oval leaves and large trusses of fragrant flowers, which are followed by turquoise-blue fruits. For a bumper crop, grow two unrelated plants together so that cross-polli­nation can take place.

Viburnum davidii also produces blue berries and is easier to find. It requires both male and female plants to fruit. Some of the best pure white berries come from the snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.



When choosing container-grown shrubs at a garden centre, make sure that the plant has a firm root ball. Also look for vigorous young stems and healthy green leaves. Yellowish leaves could signal starvation, previous erratic watering, or frost damage result­ing in damage to the root system. Do not buy plants with weeds growing in the com­post. They are probably old stock.



You can use the seeds within berries to raise a few extra plants.

• As the berries wither or start to fall, or at least by late autumn, pick a few and squash out the seeds.

• Rub them in a little dry sand to remove the stickiness and sow them thinly in good-quality potting compost.

• Cover the seeds with grit and put them outside or keep in a cold frame. Expect germination from late winter onwards.

• Transfer the seedlings into larger containers, then grow on in nursery rows for a year or two.

• Move them to their final positions.




Best berry


Type and berry colour

Under 1.5m tall


Barberry (Berberis)


Evergreen and deciduous; red, purple, black



Evergreen and deciduous; red, black-purple



Evergreen; red, white, purple, blue, black

Rose (Rosa rugosa,

R. virginiana)


Deciduous; red-orange



Evergreen; red

Blueberry, cowberry,

whortleberry (Vaccinium)


Evergreen and deciduous; red,

blue-black, black, purple


Under 2.5m tall


Beautyberry (Callicarpa)


Deciduous; lilac-violet

Spindle (Euonymus)


Evergreen and deciduous; red, pink, white

Holly (Ilex)


Evergreen and deciduous; red, yellow

Privet (Ligustruni)


Evergreen and deciduous; black

Shrubby honeysuckle (Lonicera)


Deciduous; red, pink, purple, black

Firethom (Pyracantha)


Evergreen; red, orange, yellow

Elderberry (Sambucus)


Deciduous; red, black

Guelder rose/Wayfaring

tree (Viburnum)


Evergreen and deciduous; red,

orange, yellow, black


Over 2.5m tall


Dogwood (Cornus)


Deciduous; red, pink, white, black



Evergreen and deciduous; red, orange, black



Deciduous; blue

Spindle (Euonymus)


Deciduous; red, pink, white

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae)


Deciduous; orange-yellow

Sapphire berry (Symplocos)


Deciduous; bright blue


Most plants have herma­phrodite flowers and can produce fruit and seed. Skimmia, sea buckthorn (Hippophae) and holly (Ilex) are exceptions. These have either male or female plants and both sexes must grow side by side to get a fruit crop. This means growing 2 of the same shrub, but only the female will fruit. The ideal plan is to plant one male surrounded by 3-5 females, but most gardens do not have enough room. An alterna­tive is to grow several seedlings of a male and female and plant them in the same hole. They will grow together to form what looks like one shrub.

23. August 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Ornamental Shrubs, Plants & Trees | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Shrubs with Berries


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