It has been my ambition to have red fruits adding to our garden’s fall and winter appeal, particularly in the shade garden in back.

Cranberrybush Viburnum fruit in the 15 seconds between turning slightly red and being eaten by squirrels.

My main plant for achieving this goal was supposed to be Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum). On this score, the effort was a complete failure, mainly because squirrels eat all the fruit in late summer as soon as they get a hint of red. Apparently they have not read that the fruit is supposed to be unpalatable until after a freeze or two, though squirrels are not known for their delicate palates.

(Though I should point out that otherwise Cranberrybush Viburnum is still an admirable shrub.)

Solomon’s Plume in flower

It’s still possible to find red fruits in our garden, however. Except that you have to look down, not up.

Solomon’s Plume fruit

Most notably, we have the red berries of Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum). This is a handsome plant with frothy white flowers in spring. My only complaint is that the arching stems tend to flop with the weight of the ripe berries, despite my attempts to provide discrete assistance.

More Solomon’s Plume fruit

This year, though we did manage to avoid total floppiness.

Starry Solomon’s Plume ruit

There’s also a close cousin of Solomon’s Plume, Starry Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum stellatum). This is a shorter plant, not quite as elegant, but without any floppy tendencies.

Starry Solomon’s Plume in summer

Earlier in summer, Starry Solomon’s Plume berries are green with interesting dark stripes.

Starry False Solomon's Seal
Starry Solomon’s Plume flowers

The spring flowers are attractive. I should make clear that both of these plants are best in the shade garden.

Spicebush berries before eaten by songbirds.

There are some other plants with red fruits in the garden. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) has red berries but songbirds eat them by early September, so no winter interest there. I don’t begrudge the songbirds, this is partly why I planted Spicebush. The ‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapple has long-lasting red fruits most years but this year it had almost no fruits at all.

Also, this year I added a couple of Red Chokeberries (Aronia arbutifolia). They’re still quite small, though, so I’m waiting to see how they do.

Do you have favorite plants for red fruits lasting into fall and winter?

42 Comments on “Red Berries Below”

  1. I have a beautiful thornless Russian hawthorn tree growing in the middle of my patio. In the spring it’s loaded with fragrant white flowers and now it’s covered in red berries. A lot of them will stay on the tree over the winter. The birds do not eat them, but the squirrels and my two dogs love them! I have it (and my two crabtrees) sprayed every spring for cedar apple rust or it would leafless by June.

  2. My Sargent Crab isn’t exactly a shrub, but it seems to hold its berries for quite a while. Doesn’t seem to be a favorite of many birds. Some years the cedar waxwings will eat them. I’m happy when they get eaten, but I’d prefer the birds over the squirrels. I like your other suggestions. I’ve had a spice bush in the past but it didn’t do very well. Maybe something to try in a new spot.

  3. Yes, I have winterberry too. This year I trimmed back the male too soon tho. So there aren’t many berries. It could be that or how dry or possibly a combo. I have spicebush too. It is a young shrub and has never made berries. Hopefully next year. It will be the second full year here.

  4. These are beautiful bushes and quite new to me. How drought hardy are they? The only red berries I have in the garden are cotoneasters as they are very drought hardy and our birds eat them. We have also planted a Malus Evereste last autumn for the birds in winter. Amelia

  5. You have quite a few beautiful berried plants in your garden! I have several things with berries: choke cherry shrubs (birds ignore!!!), dogwoods, American beauty bush (the deer completely demolished all the berries in one night), burning bush (cardinals love the berries). Oh, and some sort of arum with a berry stalk just like jack-in-the-pulpit. Guess that’s it.

  6. The spice bush berries are particularly striking. Beautiful brilliant scarlet!

    Here we have the native California shrub Heteromeles arbutifolia. One of the common names is “Christmas Berry” because the fruit reds up in December. Some years Cedar Waxwings will come in a flock and strip the plant of its berries in just a day, but we don’t get that many Cedar Waxwings this close to the ocean, so the Robins eventually get them. Coyotes will eat them too, when the rabbit population is at its lowest.

  7. I have a Brandywine Viburnum which has lots of salmon colored berries that are ignored by all. They dry to a dark purple and then, in late winter early spring, Robins and Cedar Waxwings strip it bare. I have seen 12 Robins in the bush at one time.

  8. We have the same problem… the birds eat everything as soon as it is barely ripe and then there is no colour left for us! We wanted to harvest some rosehips this year, but the birds have already started eating them, so we will let them enjoy them. One berry that seems to hang around longer is the European Euonymus (Spindle tree). The berry capsules are a lovely pink and then they open to reveal orange seeds. The capsules sometimes remain on the tree all winter and look like little Christmas tree decorations!

  9. The berries on my chokeberry are purple, not red. The ‘Prairie Fire’ crabapple has red berries, while ‘Perfect Purple’ has purple ones.. ‘Winter King’ hawthorn tree produces orange berries that remain untouched until late winter when the robins emerge from the nearby woods. Of course, the serviceberry fruit is long gone, as is most of the berries on the ‘Wentworth’ highbush cranberry (which is HUGE, btw). There are a few red berries left on the cotoneaster – I think rabbits like them. I’ve watched bluebirds and robins feed on pokeweed berries, which are purple. I’m not sure red has any advantage over purple or orange as far a birds are concerned.

  10. I share your wish for red berries in the garden. We have quite a few crabapples still, but they’re dropping fast. The Cedar Waxwings are enjoying them. We also have Viburnum trilobum and Solomon’s Plume. The former varies in its ability to hold its berries from year to year. Sometimes the squirrels eat most of them; other years, they last into winter. Maybe it depends on the quality and quantity of the acorns and hickory nuts from the other trees. Solomon’s Plume and the starry cousin are winners all the way around.

  11. Last weekend, I found several sort of berries in the woods: beautyberry, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Carolina buckthorn, peppervine. Some, like those on our palmettos, already are gone; there’s nothing left but nubs. I’ve not yet seen a yaupon with ripe berries; it’s either too early, or the early birds got their fill.

  12. Hello Jason, we would have berries, but between humans and birds, they’ve al be stripped. The Amalanchier berries barely get a chance to ripen, we never see the red currants, but we do manage the odd raspberry along with lots of blackberries and wineberries. Right now, we only have a few colouring rose hips in the garden – so not great but it’s a case of “talk to the wildlife”.

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