7 Garden Shrubs with Red Berries

Red berries and oval olive green leaves with a textured appearance.

Tangled Bank / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Shrubs with berries can be a wonderful addition to your garden. They can provide you or the local wildlife with food, and can liven up your garden's color palette with bright shades of red. Not all berries are edible, however. Learn to tell the difference between ornamental, inedible berries and edible berries, and learn which plants are safe for you, your family, your pets, and your backyard birds and squirrels.

Here are seven garden shrubs with red berries.

  • 01 of 07

    American Winterberry "Red Sprite"

    Bright red berries with raindrops on bare stems against a sere winter backdrop.

     Janet / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    This species of holly (Ilex verticillata) has the brightest red berries of all. If you've grown holly, you know it's necessary to have three shrubs total (two males and one female) in order to pollinate for berry production; if a female shrub is not pollinated it won't produce berries. "Red Sprite" is a good semi-dwarf variety that grows up to 5 feet tall, with good berry production. The birds will flock to your holly for the berries that may linger through spring... but alas, these berries should not be eaten by humans or pets as they can cause gastrointestinal distress and other reactions. This holly is deciduous and not evergreen, often the berries will remain after the leaves fall off.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9, cold and heat tolerant
    • Berries: Edible to birds, mildly toxic to humans, cats, dogs
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained slightly acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 3' to 5' tall and wide
  • 02 of 07

    Red Currants

    Bright red translucent berries and bright green leaves.

    Susanne Wiik / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

     

    The red currant bush (Ribes rubrum) has translucent, glassy looking red berries that make a delicious jelly! The tart berries are also a tasty snack for songbirds. The berries also come in a white variety that is somewhat sweeter than the red ones. Native to Europe, this shrub is widely cultivated for its fruit, which is rich in vitamin C. The famous Linzer torte of Austria typically uses red currant jelly for its filling. Red currents are rich in vitamins B and C, and like most berries, full of beneficial fiber.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 5 (very cold hardy)
    • Berries: Edible
    • Sun Exposure: Morning sun, afternoon shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil with added compost
    • Mature Size: 3' to 5' tall
  • 03 of 07

    Red Chokeberry

    Red berries with frozen raindrops hanging from them.

     Sara Rall / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is native to eastern Canada and the eastern and central United States. With its white flowers in spring, glossy red berries in summer, and gorgeous red autumn foliage, it has three seasons of visual interest. The flowers in spring attract butterflies. The fleshy berries attract birds from late fall through winter. The shrub, akin to a small tree, is upright and tends to put out suckers. The berries have a sour, astringent taste, used to make jams, wine, candy, syrup and other foods. They can be eaten raw but most people find them a bit too sour to enjoy in their natural state.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9, cold and heat tolerant
    • Berries: Edible to birds
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained slightly acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 5' to 10' high, 3' to 5' wide
  • 04 of 07

    Linden Viburnum

    Tightly clustered red berries with light green leaves.

     Nan / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    This deciduous deer-resistant shrub, native to eastern Asia, was introduced to the mid-Atlantic states in the early 1800s. The Linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum), also known as linden arrowwood, is named for the leaves which resemble linden tree leaves. It puts out clusters of small white flowers in spring followed by dense clusters of red berries in autumn, which gradually turn a blackish red color in winter. Birds eat the berries in winter. In autumn the leaves turn shades of red and copper. There are various cultivars which differ somewhat in shape and form, including "Iroquois," "Oneida," "Michael Dodge," and "Mt. Airy." It grows somewhat aggressively, forming dense thickets quickly if not controlled, and is considered an invasive species in Massachusetts.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5a to 8b, somewhat cold tolerant
    • Berries: Edible to birds
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained slightly acidic soil, tolerant of clay soils
    • Mature Size: 8' to 10' high and wide
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Spindle Tree

    Red berries hanging from dark red calyxes among pale green leaves tinged with pink

    Susanne Nilsson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 

    This beautiful upright shrub is native to much or Europe, hence its other common name European Spindle. The spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) bears red fruits attractive to birds and the birds help this plant reseed widely so it has a reputation for being somewhat invasive. The small white flowers in spring are unremarkable, but the colorful pink-red capsules that open to reveal orange seeds are showy and distinctive in autumn, along with the shift of the leaves' colors, ranging from yellow to reddish purple.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7, cold tolerant
    • Berries: Edible to birds
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil; tolerates alkaline soil
    • Mature Size: 12' to 20' high, 2' to 3' feet wide
  • 06 of 07

    Cotoneaster

    Bright red berries on bare grey branches

    Mark Ness / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

     

    Cotoneaster shrubs hail from China, Europe, temperate Asia and North Africa. They have been cultivated in various regions for their value as a larval plant food for butterflies and as a nectar source for bees. They make an attractive landscape shrub, are strong and hardy, and the red berries attract blackbirds and thrushes. Some of the more popular cultivars are "Coral Beauty," "Queen of Carpets," "Juliette," and "Pink Champagne." They come in various sizes and forms also, from low-growing ground covers to tall hedges. Most of them bear white flowers in spring and feature colorful autumn foliage as the red berries appear.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Berries: Edible to birds, but slightly toxic to humans
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil; tolerant of acid or alkaline soils
    • Mature Size: varies with variety (ground cover to 6' hedge)
  • 07 of 07

    Strawberry Tree

    Bright red round fruits, bright green leaves and white bell shaped flowers.

     Andre Lopes / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    This broadleaf evergreen shrub has four seasons of visual interest for the garden. Native to France, Ireland and the Mediterranean region, the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is also known as Dalmatian strawberry or cane apples. It's a popular garden shrub for its attractive berries, but these fruits, while edible, are rather bland and mealy. The strawberry tree develops an attractive twisted and gnarled in appearance as it matures. It displays fragrant bell-shaped white flowers in the fall. If bees pollinate the flowers, they will form the fruits that appear in winter, first yellow, then red. This is a very pest and disease resistant shrub as well.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10 (not cold hardy)
    • Berries: Edible to birds
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil
    • Mature Size: 6' to 15' tall

When choosing shrubs or trees with ornamental berries, it's important to determine whether any parts of the plant are toxic and might be harmful to your family, pets or local wildlife. A berry or fruit that is edible for birds may not be safe for other animals, so do some research before buying and planting.