Many shrubs thrive in Ontario including a number of native shrubs. Native shrubs offer distinct advantages over cultivated varieties because they tend to be more pest and disease-resistant. They also require less water, especially during times of drought or hot summer days. For the widest variety of choices, most gardeners use both native and cultivated shrubs to create texture, form and color in their gardens and landscapes.
Prickly Wild Rose
A native plant of Ontario, the prickly wild rose features fragrant, five-petaled roses on top of prickly canes. The perennial plant grows to about 6 feet in height and several feet in width in just about any soil as long it’s well-drained. Once the roses fade, little green rosehips appear, maturing in late summer into red fruits full of vitamin C. The rosehips can be collected and used in teas and jellies. Wildlife, including birds and mammals, also use rosehips as an important food source.
American Fly Honeysuckle
A favorite for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, the native American fly honeysuckle bush grows up to 3 feet in height. In early spring, the perennial shrub produces fragrant funnel-shaped, greenish-yellow flowers followed by small elongated green fruits. In late fall, the fruits mature into reddish-orange berries, a food source popular with birds. While honeysuckle prefers moist soil, it grows in full sun as well as part to full shade. Most gardeners plant honeysuckle from a transplant, then let it spread on its own over the following years.
An old-time favorite, common lilac offers a showstopping profusion of fragrant clusters of tiny flowers in May and June. The bush grows up to 15 feet in height and features heart-shaped leaves that appear first in the spring. The leaves are followed by flowers in shades of purple, pink and white. In order to produce lots of flowers, common lilac needs to experience a good freeze each winter, making it an ideal plant for Ontario’s cold winter climate. The perennial shrub thrives in full sun in well-drained soil. Most gardeners plant the bush as a transplant from a container.
A very low-to-the-ground native bush, bunchberry makes an attractive ground cover with white petal-like bracts appearing in early spring. After the flowers disappear, the 6-inch green foliage, similar to four-part dogwood leaves, keeps gardens looking fresh all summer long. In July, edible red fruits are ready for harvesting, although the single seed inside each berry needs to be removed first. The fruits might work better for wildlife who find the little berries an important food source. Bunchberry prefers very moist conditions and thrives in shade. The plant also works well planted underneath pines and cedars.