Top Ten Berry Producung Trees for Birds.

November 26, 2012 at 4:04 PM Leave a comment

Top 10 Berries for Birds

Grow your own feathered friend feeder for winter treats sure to please the hungriest backyard birds.

plant database
Photo: RDA GID


You’re in for a treat if you plant a cherry tree. Whether you prefer flowers or fruit, this versatile tree offers something to satisfy just about any taste.

Cherry trees belong to the same botanical genus as plum, peach and flowering almond (Prunus). They’re divided into three main types – sweet cherry, sour cherry, and ornamental cherry. Sweet cherries produce the best berries for eating (if birds don’t get them first), but generally need a temperate climate, as well as multiple varieties in one yard to thrive. Sour cherry is a hardier tree that yields tart fruit ideal for cooking or canning.

But if it’s blooms you’re after, select an ornamental variety, such as Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata), for a glorious spring show of fragrant flowers.

  • Common Names: Cherry.
  • Botanical Name: Prunus species.
  • Hardiness: Zones 5 to 9.
  • Bloom Time: Spring.
  • Size: Up to 30 to 70 feet high (some ornamentals are much smaller); up to 30 to 50 feet wide.
  • Flower/Fruit: Clusters of pink or white flowers; small red fruit emerges in summer.
  • Light Needs: Full sun.
  • Growing Advice: Transplant cherry trees in spring. Select a protected spot to reduce the risk of winter damage or late spring frost.
  • Prize Picks: Popular backyard choices are the ornamental purpleleaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena), with pink flowers and purple leaves, and the sergeant cherry (Prunus sargentii), which produces profuse flowers.

plant database
Photo: Park Seed,


“Amazing Grace” may be a hymn, but it’s also an apt description of the flowering crabapple tree. The spring blossom spectacle it produces can indeed be amazing. The flowers bloom so heavily they often hide entire branches of the tree. The blossoms give way to leaves and then fruit, but the color show persists, sometimes through winter. New varieties provide the flowers and resist common ailments, too.

  • Common Names: Crabapple.
  • Botanical Name: Malus.
  • Hardiness: Zones 4 to 8.
  • Bloom Time: Spring.
  • Size: 10 to 25 feet high, 10 to 25 feet wide.
  • Foliage: Green (some bronze), turning yellow in fall.
  • Light Needs: Full sun.
  • Growing Advice: Select disease-resistant cultivars with small, persistent fruit.
  • Prize Picks: The Japanese flowering crab (Malus floribunda) boasts a stunning display of deep-pink or red buds that fade to white, with yellow fruit that turns brownish-red in fall. For excellent disease resistance, consider Adams, which has pink flowers and long-lasting red fruit; Beauty with white to pink flowers and large dark-red fruit; or Baskatong with purplish-red flowers and fruit.

plant database
Photo: RDA GID

Flowering dogwood

The flowering dogwood could have inspired the phrase “a breath of spring,” even though its true flowers are green and small. It’s the surrounding colorful bracts that put on the glorious show. These small trees are also lovely in fall, when foliage depends to pink, red or purple.

  • Common Names: Flowering dogwood.
  • Botanical Name: Cornus florida.
  • Hardiness: Zones 5 to 8.
  • Bloom Time: Spring.
  • Size: Up to 20 feet high and up to 25 feet wide.
  • Flower/Foliage: The true flowers are green, and only 1/2 inch across. The more showy bracts – modified leaves that resemble petals – are pink, white or rosy red and up to 2 inches wide; leaves may be variegated, with yellow, white, or pink margins. Foliage turns pink, deep red, or purple in fall.
  • Light needs: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Growing Advice: They are susceptible to borers, anthracnose and other diseases and should be planted in areas where foliage can dry well after dew or rain.
  • Prize Picks: Cherokee Chief has showy dark ruby-pink bracts. Cloud Nine has flowers its large, overlapping white bracts freely – even when young.

plant database
Photo: RDA GID


Looking for autumn beauty in your backyard beyond the pumpkins, cornstalks, and chrysanthemums surrounding your doorstep? The firethorn is right for you. While it has beautiful white flower clusters in spring and attractive glossy-green foliage the rest of the year, it’s those compact bunches of pea-size red, orange or yellow berries that always get all the attention. These brilliant berries carry on long after the last of autumn’s leaves have dropped.

  • Common Names: Firethorn.
  • Botanical Name: Pyracantha coccinea.
  • Hardiness: Zones 5 or 6 to 9.
  • Bloom Time: Spring.
  • Size: Up to 15 feet high, up to 20 feet wide.
  • Flower/Fruit: White flowers in 1- to 2-inch clusters; orange-red and yellow berries appear fall through winter and remain until birds feed on them.
  • Light Needs: Full sun (for best fruit protection) to full shade.
  • Growing Advice: Sow seeds in containers in a cold frame in autumn. Plant container-grown ones in spring, in well-drained soil.
  • Prize Picks: Consider a disease-resistant hybrid such as Apache. For northern regions, try the hardy Teton or Yukon Belle, which survive winters to Zone 5.


Feathered friends love this tree, and you will, too. Just as hackberry’s bright green leaves turn yellow and drop, its dark purple berries ripen. The berries persist, providing color through the winter (or until your backyard birds eat them all).

Hackberry can be identified by its distinctive, corky grayish-brown bark. It works well as an urban planting and can tolerate dry, windy conditions in a variety of soils, though moist is best. It grows quickly and transplants well.

  • Common Names: Hackberry.
  • Botanical Name: Celtis occidentalis.
  • Hardiness: Zones 2 to 9.
  • Bloom Time: Flowers in spring, produces fruit in autumn.
  • Size: Up to 70 high and 50 feet wide.
  • Flower/Fruit: Small green flowers; yellow or red fruit turns purple in autumn.
  • Light Needs: Full sun or partial shade.
  • Growing Advice: Don’t plant too deep or you risk developing girdling roots. Instead, keep the highest roots within the top inch of soil.
  • Prize Picks: Try Prairie Pride’s shiny green leaves, which turn yellow for a showy fall display.

plant database
Photo: RDA GID


With its lovely white blossoms and abundant fruits (often called haws), a hawthorn is one tree that’s both pretty and productive. Not only do they make great privacy screens, hedges and barrier plants, but thorned varieties can be a blessing for nesting or roosting birds seeking safe shelter.

  • Common Names: Hawthorn, thorn apple.
  • Botanical Name: Crataegus.
  • Hardiness: Zones 3 to 9.
  • Bloom Time: Early summer.
  • Size: 20 to 45 feet high, 20 to 30 feet wide.
  • Flower/Fruit: Most varieties bloom white flowers, but some are pink; small, usually red or orange apple-like fruits ripen in autumn – though some varieties produce black, yellow or bluish-green fruits.
  • Light Needs: Full sun.
  • Growing Advice: Small container-grown hawthorn shrubs can be added to your backyard throughout the year, but balled-and-burlapped trees should be planted in spring.
  • Prize Picks: For those who want the benefits of these trees without the thorns, look for a variety of the Cockspur (Crataegus crus-galli) known as inermis. If it’s fall color you crave, foliage on the Lavalle hawthorn (Crataegus x lavallei) turns from glossy green to bronze-red in fall.

plant database
Photo: RDA GID

Mountain ash

This impressive tree has something to offer in every season, and it puts on a lovely, colorful show in fall. The tree’s bright-red berries provide food for a variety of birds, and can last throughout the winter.

More than 100 species of mountain ash exist, but only seven are native to North America. Areas with cool, moist soil away from heat-reflecting structures and pavement are best for this tree.

  • Common Names: Mountain ash.
  • Botanical Name: Sorbus.
  • Hardiness: Zones 2 or 3 to 7.
  • Bloom Time: Spring.
  • Size: 10 to 50 feet high, 10 to 30 feet wide.
  • Flower/Fruit: White and strongly scented; bright-red or orange berries reach peak color in early autumn.
  • Light Needs: Full sun to light shade.
  • Growing Advice: Sow seeds in a cold frame in autumn. Plant balled-and-burlapped trees in spring; container plants can be planted throughout the growing season.
  • Prize Picks: The American (Sorbus americana) and Korean (Sorbus alnifolia) varieties are excellent landscaping plants with beautiful white blossoms and brilliant berries. For shade, choose the lovely canopy created by European variety (Sorbus aucuparia).

plant database


Plant honeysuckle, and you won’t be the only one to succumb to its elegant blooms and delicious scent. Hummingbirds and butterflies are real suckers for the stuff, too. They can’t overlook the plant’s delectable nectar any more than a bear can resist a hive full of honey. Once established, honeysuckle produces lush foliage, flowers and fruit with little to no effort. That leaves plenty of time to enjoy the many winged wonders this sweet scentsation will attract to your backyard.

  • Common Names: Honeysuckle.
  • Botanical Name: Lonicera.
  • Hardiness: Zones 3 to 9; differs by species and variety.
  • Bloom Time: Usually spring and summer, but this varies by species.
  • Size: Vines – 8 to 30 feet high; shrubs, 2 to 15 feet high and 3 to 15 feet wide.
  • Flower/Fruit: White, yellow, pink, orange-red, and multicolored; usually bright-red berries, but varies by species.
  • Light Needs: Full sun or partial shade.
  • Growing Advice: Space plants 3 to 4 feet apart in holes the same depth as the rootballs. Plant container-grown honeysuckle throughout the growing season or transplant in spring before growth begins.
  • Prize Picks: Dropmore Scarlet produces long-lasting trumpet-shaped blooms.

plant database
Photo: Park Seed,


Few deciduous shrubs garner winter interest like winterberry. Unlike its cousin, holly, winterberry drops its leaves in fall, so nothing detracts from the showy brilliance of the red berries. Winterberry is often regarded as a must for cold-weather landscaping, and it’s easy to see why. You’ll love the colorful fruit, and the birds will love you for it.

  • Common Names: Winterberry.
  • Botanical Name: Ilex verticillata.
  • Hardiness: Zones 3 to 9.
  • Bloom Time: White flowers in spring followed by fruit.
  • Size: 6 to 10 feet high, 6 to 10 feet wide.
  • Fruit: Bright red to orange-red berries last throughout the winter.
  • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Growing Advice: Sow seeds in containers in a cold frame in autumn. Germination may take 2 or 3 years. Transplant in early spring. Prefers to grow in organically rich, moist soil.
  • Prize Picks: Winter Red’s berries last until the spring.

plant database
Photo: RDA GID


Looking for a birds-and-blooms bonanza to fill the view from your favorite picture window? Then serviceberry may be the perfect planting for your backyard. These small trees or shrubs provide four seasons of interest in just about any landscape.

And besides pleasing backyard bird-watchers with green thumbs, they’ll even satisfy folks with a sweet tooth. They may even bring new meaning to the old slogan, “Service with a smile!” They’ll provide four seasons of top-notch service that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear.

    • Common Names: Serviceberry, shadblow, shadbush, juneberry, Saskatoon.
    • Botanical Name: Amelanchier species.
    • Hardiness: Zones 3 to 9.
    • Bloom Time: Early spring.
    • Size: 6 to 40 feet high, 5 to 30 feet wide.
    • Flower/Fruit: White to light pink flowers; 1/4- to 1/2-inch red-purple to purple-black berries produced 2 to 3 years after planting.
    • Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade.
    • Growing Advice: Make sure the root flare (the area where the main trunk meets the root ball) is slightly above the soil line. The planting hole should be three to five times wider than the root ball.
    • Prize Picks: Alleghany serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), also know as shadbush, is a slow-growing small tree that eventually reaches 30 feet tall. A close cousin, shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), is often considered more of a shrub.
  • From Birds & Blooms online:

Entry filed under: Green Information.

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