Best Trees and Shrubs for the Bird Garden?

Dixon, IL(Zone 5a)

Hey Jec,

Everything you have listed is on my wish list except the hackberry. I will have to look up the site. cant buy this year but hoping next year will be good for me. Good luck. Let us know how the stuff is when you get it.

Glen Burnie, MD

Has anybody had any experience with Cardinal Vine?

Dixon, IL(Zone 5a)

I planted cardinal vine 2 years ago and it really took off. It bloomed late that year though but when it did it REALLY bloomed.. Wrapped itself all over my wooden fence and was really pretty.The hummingbirds loved it. I tried last year but I put it in a different spot where it didn't get enough sun. I have seeds for it again this year. I want to plant it in a pot on my deck so it will wrap around it really nice. The flowers are really pretty. That is my experience with it.

Thanks, Tobasco but I doubt if I'll go to the RU. I'm not quite ready for it this year though. I'm still in the planning phase. But you are recommending Dropmore Scarlet? I'll write that down.

No powdery mildew needed--I already get that on a few plants (roses and phlox). Disease resistance is a good thing although I would deal with mildew on a plant that is especially nice otherwise.

Berkely Heights, NJ(Zone 6a)

I was searching for Northeast native shrubs to attract birds and stumbled onto this thread & site. I found some great information here & I thank you all. Adding in my personal observation, I have a large Black Gum tree in my yard which fruits a Blue colored berry in late August through September. The birds consume the berries like crazy, especially Robins, Catbirds, Wood Thrushes, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, & Northern Flickers. The leaves turn a brilliant orange/reddish color which is quite striking. Unfortunately I do not see very many of them.
I used to have a Black Birch tree that Finches used to love eating the catkins in the winter, but it got diseased and had to be removed.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Tab, thank you for having initiated such interesting thread. Thanks goes to Elendil2 that I discovered this thread. We've some trees that share common interests in both North & South regions. Elen, I wished we too have more mature Black Gum trees for they're so beautiful in the Fall. They're great for foliage, and their blue berries that will attract all those mentioned birds. Let me tell you, perhaps this is the very first time I am excited about winter! So I can be looking out for birds that visit our area. :-)

Here is a pix of the Tupelo tree (Black Gum), I'll post its Fall foliage this year here so everyone can ooohhh and ahhhh over it.

Thumbnail by Lily_love
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I was not familiar with Black Gum, but when you mentioned 'Tupelo' I recognized it as the tree that produces the delicious honey that is so prized!

Before I checked it out on plant files, I didn't realize it grew in northern zones.

Thanks for your comments about this thread. It is helpful to review it, even for me, now that fall planting time is here.

Berkely Heights, NJ(Zone 6a)

Wow Lily that is a very large & beautiful Black gum! Its much larger than mine!
I just made a large purchase of Viburnums & Clethora for a landscape project of mine. I always plant natives & plants that attract wildlife. Many of my ideas came from this site. I purchased 15 Blue Muffin Viburnums & 6 Summersweet Clethora for a hedge/screen. I also purchased 8 Highbush Cranberries which the nursery owner told me is one of the hardiest/durable plants there are & can grow in full sun or shade. Unfortunately he had run out of Blackhaw Viburnums. The Nursery has a large stock of native plants, a very friendly staff, (grandfather,son,wife, & grandsons are employees) & very helpful & knowledgeable. The Nursery is Highland Hill Farm, near Doylestown Pennslyvania website is
I highly recommend them. Again thank you all for your help & would love to see your Black Gum's fall colors Lily

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

That's an interesting website for the Highland Hill Farm.

Sounds like this family has quite an operation (and farms and ranches in about 20 states) along with the nursery operation. And he likes to 'barter and trade' so he should be fun to do business with! (It doesn't look like he does mail order though).

Must look up Highbush Cranberries and some of the others you have mentioned.

Berkely Heights, NJ(Zone 6a)

I was wondering if anyone could provide some suggestions for a lowgrowing (less than three feet height) native plant that Birds like. The spot would be full sun, dry, and is at the end of a row of Blue Muffin Viburnums. I live in North New Jersey

Marlton, NJ

Hi Elendil, I don't know the height but what about dwarf blueberry. I'll do some more searching.

Marlton, NJ

Here is a site that has some in your height range.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Mmmm...cottoneaster, abelia (for hummers), smaller hollies, and I think most of the 'berry' bushes mentioned in this link might work, depending on your design needs:

A bush (i.e. red twigged) dogwood might need a little shade, a red buckeye might be too big, shadbush/serviceberries are always loved by birds, but might be a little big, hummingbirds look for red rhododendrons in the springtime but so do deer...

Birds also like the native grasses for seeds and nesting.

Just a few ideas to get you started... (-:

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) is a good no-nonsense tough small shrub with fall fruit.

Berkely Heights, NJ(Zone 6a)

I would like to thank you all for responding. I appreciate your input very much, and I will let you all know what I eventually decide. I have an order from Forest farm coming in, and have to finish my backyard planting consisting of 4 Highbush Cranberries, 1 Blackhaw Viburnum, 1 Spicebush, 1 Shadbush, 2 black Chokeberries & 2 Red Chokeberries. I left a small wild Sassafrass tree in place as its native, and I hear that birds & butterflies use it. I have two more spots that I'm going to fill with Leatherleaf Viburnums. I was impressed with the Red Buckeye tree when I googled and found pictures of it. Wish I had a spot for it! Maybe I'll post some pictures next spring when all of this "fun" work is completed and the shrubs have their leaves on! Again thank you all for being so helpful!

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I am a Master Gardener who works for the county Library. I'd like to recommend two books: "Bird-by-Bird Gardening" by Sally Roth; and "The Bird Garden" by Stephen W. Kress writing for the National Audobon Society.

Also, I really recommend planting for insects: benificial insects, pollinators, and butterfly/caterpillars. Birds need, and consume, a lot of insects. That includes nesting female Hummingbirds, they need a lot of tiny insects.

We have a rodent problem in my area. I do not recommend plants that provide both ground-level shelter and food (especially seeds) on the same plant. Having either ground level shelter without rodent food OR food with visable exposed ground beneath it keeps my rodents down.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Did you know that dogwoods produce an abundant of seeds/berries? I have alway love these beautiful blooms in the spring, until I discovered birds watching in the garden -- then I also discovered the berries on dogwoods. I noticed squirrels too will 'hang out on a limb' so- to- speak to collect dogwood's berries.

Thumbnail by Lily_love
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Elendil2, it sounds like your garden will be a feast for the birds and butterflies. You will definitely have to post some pics come springtime!

And, Yes, the Sassafras and the Spicebush are both host plants for the Swallowtail butterflies, so you will certainly want to nurture those along. The dogwood is also used as a host by some butterflies (hackberry and spring asure for starters). If you want more info on host plants for your butterflies, check out this website:

Interesting, pollengarden about your theory on cover and food plants. I hadn't heard of that recommendation before. We have loads of chipmonks, moles, and voles, but I'm not sure that theory would apply to them, would it? Maybe squirrels, though, for sure.

And if your books are not yet reviewed in The Garden Bookworm, it might be fun to do that. I think they need more bird gardening references listed there...

When the berries are ready on our dogwoods, the birds go crazy for them. They are a wonderful tree and I wish we had more of them, but there is some disease that is killing them off in our hoo.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

The rodents I have deterred this way are field mice, voles, and especially cotton rats. I found my "theory" by removing the habitat wherever and whenever there was too many rodents. After several years I noticed there was a pattern, they liked to forage on the ground, but didn't like being exposed to predators. It might work on chipmunks - they like to stay on the ground, but they aren't as shy and secretive as cotton rats. It probably wouldn't work on squirrels - they prefer to avoid the ground anyway. It wouldn't work on moles for the same reason it doesn't work on gophers - they don't need plants to hide under, but they don't eat the seeds and berries off the bird plants either.

All the Bird-scaping books seem to recommend Dogwood, but it just doesn't do well here. I've already got a hedge row of various berry bushes, I'm going to plant more vines next year.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Nadina or Heavenly bamboos' berries, these are quite adaptive either under sun or shade condition down South. Thanks Pollengarden for sharing some wonderful tips.

Thumbnail by Lily_love
Rockport, TX(Zone 9a)

OMG! I love this thread. No time right now to read it all though. Can't wait to come back later and take notes! Here are my favs.

Mulberry -- you mentioned Rose-breasted Grosbeaks but I've also seen Yellow-breasted Chats, Cedar Waxwings, Orioles, finches, Red-bellied woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and more. It's a big favorite.

Beautyberry -- I agree with above -- this is great. Comes in a beautiful burgundy color too.

Ajuga -- favorite of buntings. I was at a friend's house "at the river," and there were at least a dozen indigo buntings in a clearing. After they left, we went to see what they were eating. The clearing was jam packed with wild ajuga. Here's a pic of a Painted Bunting eating ajuga seeds in my backyard.

I have two pretty weeds in the yard that birds love. I don't know the names of them though. If I find out, I'll add.

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Berkely Heights, NJ(Zone 6a)

I have a question on the Clethra. I made a hedge last October, using 15 Blue Muffin Viburnums, and six Clethra (Ruby Spice) along with 2 Chicago Lustre Viburnums on the far end for Cross pollination with the Blue Muffins. It is May 19th, My Viburnums are leaved-out and flowers are blooming. The Clethra are just starting to leave out from the bottom up. They look terrible and I thought they were dead as in the beginning of April they had no buds at all. My question is, should you cut them down like you do a Butterfly Bush in March or some other month? As of now I regret planting them. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Marlton, NJ

Hi Elendil, I have brought this to the attention of someone who is quite knowledgeable about viburnums so you should have an answer soon.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

I've a pink Clethra for over 4 years now. Mine is late sending out leaves also. I hardly have to prune mine since it remains pretty compact. I left the tiny flowers seeds on for the birds to enjoy in the winter. When the leaves emerge, I'll carefully snip off those spent seeds florets.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Here is my pink Clethra:

I hope that help?

I have four different cultivars of clethra but none are the one that you have. They are late to leaf out. They don't normally need to be pruned. They leaf out slowly from the bottom up. This is very normal for clethras. However, one of my clethras was in full sun and sometimes it would die off a little at the top so I cut the dead twigs off. I think it was because they were in full sun and I let the ground go dry in summer (they like moisture). So I moved them all to a wetter, part shade area this spring.

I know this doesn't answer your question. Sorry. But they definitely don't leaf out or bloom at the same time as those viburnums. It takes them a while to wake up in the spring.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Hi all! Thanks for resurrecting a great old thread.

I'm not sure what my viburnum knowledge will contribute here. It seems like Elendil2 has the right thing going with the 2 types of Arrowwood Viburnum (BM and Chicago Lustre), which I trust are both blooming together?

As I read it, Elendil2 is not happy with the performance/look/timing of the Clethra 'Ruby Spice' in this arrangement. It is what it is. Pretty much all Clethra are much later to come into leaf than other landscape plants. It sounds like yours are doing just what everyone else's do.

Cutting them down is not a good choice, and is unnecessary except to remove dead wood or tip prune out old seedheads from last year (as has been mentioned). Patience is about all that should be added in this situation.

If you just don't want Clethra in this mix in the future, transplant 'em and pick some other shrub that will fit your fancy. An Aronia might do the trick.

Berkely Heights, NJ(Zone 6a)

Wow, what a nice fast multiple responses! I thank you all very much! What I learned was to snip the spent seed florets in March or April. Be patient, and keep them moist. Mine are in full sun. To answer my friend viburnum Valley, the Blue Muffins bloomed a few days ago, the Chicago Lustre is about to pop out any day. I started out in 2008 with 0 Viburnums, I now have 11 different species! I also purchased a Winterthur to go with the 2 Brandywine's I planted last year. I am a full fledged viburnum nut! I wish I had planted them years ago.
I thank you all very much and I wish you all sunny days and green gardens!

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

How about a thread of your own here, displaying just how "nutty" you are.

I bet - more of a "fruitcake."

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

I am reviving this thread because I need an idea for a small shrub in a partial shade area. Gets some early morning sun and then a few hours in the afternoon. And it can't be toxic to dogs at all because it will be in the back yard.

I would love a beautyberry, but it doesn't look zone hardy.

Marlton, NJ

Hi Mrs_Ed, What about Blueberry bushes? According to the article on the lower part of this page they are safe for dogs.

The Ozarks, MO(Zone 5b)

How about a Spicebush? .

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

How about an Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) clone like 'Pee Wee', 'Sikes Dwarf', or 'Little Honey'?

Or - any of the Smooth Hydrangea selections (Hydrangea arborescens)?

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

All good choices.

I've been thinking of a dwarf or container blueberry, but was worried it would not get enough sun. Seems like everything might be that way… "sun to partial shade". hmmm.

I have a regular oakleaf hydrangea out front, along with the annabelle (big!). Was considering the Pinky Winky Hydrangea, but 6-8 feet. I'd probably have to prune like crazy! Maybe a PeeGee/tree hydrangea because I can still have things under it? But no berries so would be for cover and beauty only.

And I like the idea of a spicebush to host butterflies. I haven't seen any of them around, but maps show Spicebush Swallowtails scattered in the area.

I would LOVE a serviceberry, but they are just too big.

Anyone grown the Snowberry, "Amethyst"? Looks like it can get big too.

The Ozarks, MO(Zone 5b)

I planted 3 serviceberry last year and they are taking forever to grow...probably something I am doing wrong!

Have you thought about Weigela? I planted one last year and it is doing wonderful in spite of my brown thumb. .

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

meh. I really don't like weigela. I don't like how scraggly they get. A pretty flower though.

Rockport, TX(Zone 9a)

I just bought a honeysuckle called Raspberry Profusion or something like that. It's supposed to bloom all summer, and it still has flowers now. It's super fragrant and the hummers went to it immediately. It says sun, but when I read about it online, it said that it can do shade too. Only grows to 4'.

I have a plant called a Christmas Berry. It's in deep, deep dry shade. Green and nice but right now, it doesn't have any berries. I've left it sitting in the plastic pot though for several years and rarely water it. Should be dead. It's supposed to have berries that birds like. I'm going to move it this fall to a place where I can see it and take care of it.

I'm editing b/c I just went outside and looked at the x-mas berry and it does have berries! The tag is still on the plastic pot. It's called Ardisia.

Oh and I know the honeysuckle is cold hardy b/c it was my favorite bush when I was kid in Canada, but it's also listed on a Texas website as one of the best shrubs to grow in Texas. That's pretty amazing -- a best shrub from Edmonton, Alberta to Houston, Texas. I'm editing again b/c what I'm calling honeysuckle is actually called Abelia and there are lots of varieties. Some are more cold hardy than others.

I'm editing yet again b/c turns out ardisia is only hardy to zone 8b. I think I'm going to plant more of it though!

This message was edited Sep 4, 2010 6:36 AM

This message was edited Sep 4, 2010 6:40 AM

This message was edited Sep 4, 2010 7:06 AM

Lakeview, OH

I planted several Rose of Sharon bushes this fall, they all had roots on them, will they bloom this year or will they take some time before they bloom?

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

They seem to be very fast growing and fast to bloom. Do you know how old they were ? I've seen lots of bare root first year plants bloom in the second year. So it won't be long.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

And they'll do next to nothing for the bird garden - except attract some Japanese beetles.

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