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Native Tennessee Shrubs

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Using native shrubs for landscaping in Tennessee makes plenty of sense. It gives the local wildlife familiar food and shelter sources, decreases the risk of nonnative species escaping into the surrounding countryside and provides you with a low-maintenance landscape, according to the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council. Tennessee lies within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 and 7, so cold hardiness is not a necessity for the bushes that grow there.


The viburnums growing in Tennessee include arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentata), a type of shrub maturing between 6 and 10 feet. Arrowwood viburnum grows well in sun or partial shade and blooms in May and June with white flowers that turn into bluish-black fruits consumed by wildlife. Arrowwood viburnum provides a Tennessee landscape with sharp fall colors of orange and red in good years. Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) grows to 20 feet. The shrub tolerates shade and can form colonies, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority. The cream white flowers generate edible black fruit.


Hungry, migrating birds will find the red berries of winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) and devour them. Winged sumac colonizes poor quality sites, growing to 20 feet and producing a bright red fall color. Winged sumac is a host species for butterflies and its flowers provide nectar for them. The eastern cottontail rabbit will eat the bark of fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) in hard times during winter. This shrub is an excellent type for control of erosion in a Tennessee landscape, growing to form thickets. Its fruits are red, along with its fall foliage, with the berries lasting into winter.


The Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense) grows native to eastern counties of Tennessee, developing to 20 feet in the biggest individuals. This evergreen shrub flowers in May, producing magenta to lilac colored blooms. Catawba rhododendron does best in cool, acidic sites. The monarch butterfly, on its southward migration, partakes of the nectar of the Pinxterbloom azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) flower. This deciduous shrub grows to 8 feet, makes thickets and is found along stream banks and in woodlands in Tennessee. Use it in full shade, since it has no problem growing to fruition without direct sunshine.

More Tennessee Natives

Crush the leaves of the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) to enjoy the spicy aroma it exudes. Spicebush is an 8- to 20-foot high Tennessee native shrub with yellow flowers and golden fall color. It is suitable for shady spots on your property. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) grows in eastern and central Tennessee, an evergreen species of bush that sometimes attains 12 feet high. Its showy pink to white flowers bloom in late May or during the start of June. Mountain laurel handles shade, but plant it in full sun for best growth and flowering effect.

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