In winter, gardeners have to get creative to bring color and texture to an otherwise bleak landscape. 

One of the best ways to do this is by planting shrubs that produce winter berries. Not only will you get the bright berries themselves, but your shrubs will soon be decorated with a host of colorful, feasting birds.

There are many choices available for winter berries, with colors ranging from white and blue to yellow, orange, and red. Read on to find out about the many colorful berry options available to add vibrance and wildlife to your winter garden.

    1. Beautyberry 

    No garden is complete without the showstopping bright-purple berries of Beautyberry. The attractive, arching branches of this ornamental shrub sport abundant clusters of vivid purple berries that persist well after the leaves have fallen. 


    For maximum impact, highlight beautyberry by planting it as a specimen plant or in front of evergreens or another solid backdrop to really make the colorful berries pop.

    Hardy to Zone 5, beautyberry is native to Asia and was introduced to gardens in North America for its vibrant beauty.

    2. Cotoneaster 

    Most varieties of cotoneaster are small, spreading shrubs. Many prostrate varieties are used as groundcovers because they tumble attractively over walls and slopes. 


    Both evergreen and deciduous varieties are available, with dark green leaves, pink spring flowers, and plentiful crops of eye-catching small red berries in winter that really stand out against the bare branches.

    Hardy to Zone 4, cotoneaster species are native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Some have become invasive plants in North America.

    3. Crabapple 

    From soft multicolored blossoms in spring to a profusion of tiny fruits into fall and winter, Crabapples offer multi-season interest in the garden. Most varieties are small ornamental trees with an arching habit, and weeping forms are available for a cascading shape. 


    Crabapples produce edible (though often tart) fruits that can be used for jellies and preserves.

    Choose disease-resistant cultivars for optimal performance. For cold climates, they are hardy to Zone 3.

    4. Winterberry 

    A deciduous holly native to eastern North America, winterberry is prized for its eye-catching scarlet berries that brighten up the winter landscape. 


    Unlike other hollies, winterberry is dioecious, so male and female plants are required for fruit production. For good pollination and abundant fruit, you should plant one male winterberry for every two to three females.

    Winterberry thrives in moist, acidic soils and is hardy to Zone 3.

    5. Inkberry 

    Another native North American holly, inkberry produces abundant shiny black fruits persisting into winter. It’s a broadly adaptable, low-maintenance shrub that thrives in sun and shade. 


    Compact varieties like “Shamrock” are excellent choices for foundation plantings. Inkberry is tolerant of diverse soil types and is hardy to Zone 5.

    6. Common Snowberry 

    A worthwhile addition to any winter garden, the common snowberry produces abundant small white berry clusters along gracefully arching stems from midsummer to late winter. 

    Common Snowberry 

    It quickly forms a dense thicket of slender branches that provide great structure and interest when backlit.

    Full sun is optimal for fruit production. Common snowberry thrives in poor, dry soils and is hardy to Zone 3.

    7. Red Chokeberry 

    Red chokeberry is a multi-season beauty, with tiny white spring flowers, brilliant red fall foliage, and bright red berry bunches lingering into winter.


    The tart berries can be harvested for jams and wine. Red chokeberry is a low-maintenance, adaptable shrub and is tolerant of drought, heat, humidity, pollution, and poor soils. It grows well in full sun to part shade and is hardy to Zone 3.

    8. American Cranberrybush 

    A large 8- to 12-foot shrub, the American cranberry bush offers three seasons of interest. Spring blooms give way to lush foliage in summer that turns bright red in fall. 

    8. American Cranberrybush 

    By late summer, scarlet fruits cover the shrub and persist through winter. Use as a specimen plant or densely planted flowering hedge. American cranberrybush prefers moist, acidic soils and is hardy to Zone 2.

    9. Wintergreen Barberry 

    Native to western China, wintergreen barberry keeps its leaves into winter in mild climates. The small rounded leaves emerge wine red, maturing to dark green with attractive reddish veining. 

    Wintergreen Barberry 

    Abundant purple berries adorn the branches in fall and winter. Winter barberry is a beautiful informal hedge or accent plant, tolerant of various soils and hardy to Zone 5.

    So, Is Planting Berries in Your Winter Garden Worthwhile?

    Do you want to bring life and beauty to your garden, even in the depths of winter? I find that planting shrubs with colorful winter berries allows you to do just that. 

    The jewel-toned fruits provide essential food for birds and wildlife during the lean winter months while brightening up your yard with eye-catching pops of color.

    “The various textures and forms of the plants themselves provide interest too,” says garden designer Beth Austin. “Twiggy, delicate stems on some varieties contrast beautifully with the bolder branches of trees and evergreens.”

    The wide variety of winter berry plants means there are options suitable for nearly any garden. Place them strategically where their fruits can shine — either as specimen plants, massed as hedges, or underplanted beneath deciduous trees. Give them proper conditions, and most will thrive with minimal care while rewarding you with beauty and wildlife activity all winter long.

    FAQs About Winter Berry Plant

    What are some good companion plants for winter berry shrubs?

    Some great options include:

    • Evergreen conifers like spruce or pine provide a perfect green backdrop.
    • Ornamental grasses add texture and movement.
    • Deciduous trees give dappled shade and show off the berries when their leaves drop.
    • Bulbs like snowdrops or winter aconite flower early beneath the shrubs.

    How much sun do winter berry plants need?

    Most varieties fruit best with at least six hours of direct sun daily. Some dappled shade is okay, but too much shade will reduce berry production.

    Should I prune my winter berry shrubs?

    In my experience, it’s best to prune immediately after fruiting, before new spring growth emerges. This maximizes next year’s fruit crop. Remove any dead or damaged branches annually.

    What is the best way to use winter berry plants in my garden?

    Use them singly as specimen plants, in groupings of three, five, or seven densely planted as hedges or underplanted beneath trees. Site them where their fruits can shine.

    How long do the berries last on these plants?

    Depending on the variety, berries last from late summer well into winter or even spring. Fruit persists longest when plants are sited in full sun.

    Do berry plants require any special care?

    Give them proper cultural conditions (sun, soil, moisture) and prune occasionally, and most will thrive with minimal care. Applying organic mulch around the base helps maintain soil moisture and deter weeds.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Coty Perry

    Coty Perry

    Expert Writer & Reviewer

    Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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    Lee Ann Merrill

    Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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