Magazine article Sunset

Berries to Brighten the Season

Magazine article Sunset

Berries to Brighten the Season

Article excerpt

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. …

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