Besides flowers and interestingly shaped leaves, shrubs planted in a garden can provide a colorful display of berries. In some cases, the berries are significantly more ornamental than the flowers that created them. A vast array of plant species exist that are worth growing in a garden, each with specific light, soil and water requirements and climate limitations. Contact a local botanical garden, Cooperative Extension office or reputable garden center to learn of shrubs with attractive fruits worth planting.
Shrubs produce fruits as a means to reproduce. Their seeds are embedded in the berries, which are later eaten by birds, rodents or other critters and then scattered in their droppings around the landscape. For wildlife, berries provide needed nourishment, especially in the fall and winter months. Gardeners love shrubs that produce berries, because they attract wildlife to watch and provide visual beauty. Moreover, cut branches of berries are used in flower arrangements and to embellish winter holiday wreaths, swags and garlands.
The selection of ornamental shrubs that produce berries is expansive, and the ripe fruits range in all colors, except green, for the most part. Berries are held singly or in clusters on branches and are nestled among evergreen leaves or remain on naked stems. Hollies (Ilex) are widely regarded for their production of small berries, and different species and cultivars develop red, orange or yellow fruits. Beautyberry (Callicarpa) shrubs are known for long branches with rounded clusters of violet, purple or white berries. Viburnums are also common garden plants that yield clusters of red, blue, rose-pink berries that tend to ripen to purple or black. Grape holly (Mahonia), junipers (Juniperus) and blueberry (Vaccinium) produce bluish fruits, while snowberry (Symphoricarpos) berries are white to pale pink. According to a list in "Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs," a great number of ornamental garden shrubs grown across the United States make red berries.
Typically, plants that produce berries that are not edible are simply regarded as "ornamental shrubs." Blueberries, for instance, produce fruits that are delicious for both man and beast and often are considered a fruit crop, even though a blueberry shrub filled with berries is visually appealing. Across all the shrub species that produce berries, the common bond among them is that the fruits are fleshy, not dry like a capsule or nut. Each shrub is covered in variously sized and colored berries to complement foliage or to replace it once it drops away in autumn. Not all berries made by shrubs are eaten by wildlife, because they have an unsavory taste.
Shrubs that produce berries in temperate climates bloom in either spring or summer. Once the flowers are pollinated, each blossom's ovary develops into a berry and is ripe by late summer or fall, as determined by each species' genetics. Also, shrubs retain these fruits for differing durations across the fall and winter months. Factors that cause shrub berries to decline or numbers to diminish include their taste to hungry wildlife (particularly birds) and extent of winter cold temperatures, which can rupture the berry tissues and cause them to shrivel, dry and then drop off. Gardeners tend to favor shrubs that display fruits for several weeks or months across the fall and winter, when blossoms and leaves in the landscape overall are scarce.
For shrubs to produce berries, pollination and fertilization of flowers is absolutely necessary. Some shrub species are self-fertile, meaning the flowers on the bush will provide the pollen necessary for the wind or insects to facilitate pollination. In other species, such as hollies (Ilex), pollen-producing flowers occur on separate plants than the berry-producing ones. These male and female shrubs must be in proximity for pollination to occur and berries to develop on the female plants. Proper pruning of shrubs is important, too, according to Purdue University. You don't want to prune at a time when flowers are developing, because their removal prevents any hopes for subsequent berries. Last, if curious small children (and their wandering hands) are a concern, investigate if the plant's alluring berries are toxic before growing them in your garden.