17 Greatest North American Native Shrubs For Your Backyard

Are you creating a new landscape design or hoping to enhance your current garden design? Landscaping with shrubs has many benefits. Shrubs increase the diversity and structure of your yard. They complement trees and flowers and look wonderful planted together. And the best reason of all to include shrubs in your landscape is that they’re beautiful!

Shrubs are immensely diverse, and there are sure to be shrubs that will satisfy your gardening needs. Looking for something deciduous or evergreen? How about a shrub with fragrant flowers, showy fruits, or brilliant autumn foliage? Would you prefer a large shrub to make a bold statement or a small shrub to grow in a compact arrangement or container? No matter which characteristics you’re hoping to find, there’s a shrub for your garden plot. 

Once you decide on a few different species you would like to grow, get creative with your garden design and arrangement. Use a highly ornamental single shrub as a focal point, or group several together to form a hedge or shrub garden. Combine shrubs and wildflowers in your shade garden, add flair to your xeriscape, or use shrubs to create a vertical structure in your cottage garden. 

When you choose to work with native plants, you’ll enjoy other benefits as well. Native shrubs are already perfectly adapted to their natural growing conditions. This means they need less watering, less fertilization, fewer chemicals, and generally require a lot less fuss than non-native species. Your local butterflies, bees, beneficial insects, and birds will also reward your native plant choices by visiting your landscape and making it their home. 

Let’s dig right in and highlight 17 fabulous native shrubs that you can easily incorporate into your home garden.

American Beautyberry

This shrub produces pale pink spring flowers followed by clusters of purple berries.

American beautyberry is a fabulous small—to medium-sized deciduous shrub native to south-central and southeastern North America. As a popular landscaping plant, several cultivars are available, including dwarf varieties and some with pure white berries. American beautyberry grows well in both full sun and partial shade. This plant does very well in a variety of soil types, preferring moist, well-drained soil.

American beautyberry develops a rounded form of many long, gracefully arching stems. It blooms in the spring with clusters of somewhat inconspicuous small, pale pink flowers along the leafy stems. After flowering, watch for dense clusters of small green berries to form. By late summer and early fall, the fruits ripen, lining the stems with tight masses of brilliant purple berries. Hungry fruit-eating birds relish the fruits, making this an excellent shrub for your wildlife-friendly landscape.

Native Azalea

Delicate white blooms adorn slender branches of a native azalea, gracefully poised against a backdrop of blurred blossoms, creating a serene and ethereal ambiance in the garden scene.The azalea bursts into colorful spring blooms in various hues.

There are so many varieties of native azalea that it’s difficult to pick a favorite. If you live on the West Coast, try the western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale). If you’re on the East Coast, try the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum). In the central United States, the roseshell azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) is a great choice. Wherever you live, choose a species native to your region so it will be best adapted to your local conditions.

Azaleas are spectacular plants. They make the perfect shrub for your shade garden or woodland garden. Most varieties need moist, well-drained soil and are not tolerant of drought conditions. These plants produce copious brightly-colored flowers each spring in a rainbow assortment of white, pink, orange, purple, or red, depending on the species.


Golden rays illuminate ripe blueberries nestled within verdant foliage, casting a tranquil glow on their indigo skin, a vibrant symphony of nature's bounty and radiant hues.Native and cultivated blueberries provide abundant summer berries.

The lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) are two species of blueberry native to eastern North America. Lowbush blueberries stay quite compact, typically less than two feet tall, while highbush blueberries can grow into mighty 12-foot tall shrubs. Both appreciate a sunny location, producing the most abundant fruits in full sun. Blueberries love soil that is acidic, organically rich, moist and well-drained. 

If you love to eat blueberries, check out these native species. You will also find plenty of cultivars derived from the native species. All will produce plenty of small, round, deliciously edible berries each summer. If you grow multiple varieties together, you will have the most prolific fruiting. Blueberries are also excellent wildlife plants. Pollinators love the flowers, and birds love to help you eat the fruits! 

California Lilac

A close-up of a California lilac blossom, delicate petals bathed in soothing baby blue tones, evoking serenity and tranquility, a gentle whisper of nature's grace captured in delicate hues.Pair California lilac with native wildflowers for a stunning display.

Many different species of California lilac are native to the Pacific Northwest, and even more cultivars and hybrids are available commercially. They require full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. California lilacs are not true lilacs but rather members of the buckthorn family. These plants resemble true lilacs in their beautiful and sweetly fragrant flowers.

California lilac shrubs are highly variable, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose the best one for your site. Choose a small-statured plant for container gardening and smaller spaces. Choose a robust, tall variety to be the center of attention in a larger landscape. California lilac flowers include shades of white, pink, purple, and blue and will certainly attract any pollinators in the area. Grow your California lilac alongside some other native wildflowers for a spectacular display. 


A close-up of two clusters of ripe, dark chokeberries nestled among green leaves, promising tartness and antioxidants in every juicy bite.This deciduous shrub provides bright red berries for birds.

Chokeberry is an adaptable medium-sized shrub native to central and eastern North America. It grows well in full sun and partial shade and makes a lovely shrub for a wooded edge planting. Chokeberry prefers moist, well-drained soil and will tolerate locations with periodic flooding, making it a fine addition to a rain garden

Chokeberry is a deciduous shrub with smooth, reddish-brown bark that’s appealing during the winter months. Its fragrant blossoms are pink and white. These spring-blooming flowers attract pollinators to your landscape. From late summer into fall, bunches of bright red berries become a bird-feeding favorite. Any fruits not consumed by the birds will linger on the tree into winter. 

Common Serviceberry

A serviceberry shrub with crimson foliage basks under the sun's warmth, evoking a picturesque autumnal scene in nature's embrace.The common serviceberries attract pollinators with their spring flowers.

Several native species of serviceberry are found throughout the United States. The common serviceberry, also known as the downy serviceberry, is one of the more widespread species found throughout eastern and central North America. As a woodland plant, it prefers shaded locations and makes an excellent ornamental shrub for a woodland garden. Common serviceberry will grow well in a variety of well-drained soils. 

Serviceberries are beautiful in the springtime when they erupt in masses of white flowers before the leaves appear. The fragrant flowers attract early-season pollinators. Serviceberry shrubs are also larval host plants for a couple of different butterfly species, making them a valuable plant for wildlife. Birds will come to feast on the dark purple-black fruits, which are also edible for humans. 

Douglas Spirea

Slender clusters of purple flowers bloom gracefully atop the Douglas spirea shrub, accompanied by green leaves, creating a charming contrast in color and texture within the garden landscape.Prune regularly to manage growth and spread in your landscape.

The Douglas spirea, also known as western or rose spirea, is a handsome shrub native to western North America. This small to medium-sized, low-maintenance shrub looks great in your cottage garden, hedge row, or in a rain garden area. Grow it in a sunny location or with light shade, and make sure it receives steady soil moisture, as these plants don’t like to dry out completely. 

The Douglas spirea has a long blooming period, flowering throughout the summer in ideal conditions. The soft pink flower clusters are sure to attract any pollinators in the area. Enjoy their sweet fragrance and colorful display. These plants spread readily by suckering roots and stems. Allow them to naturalize in a wild part of your landscape, or keep them pruned regularly to control their growth and spread.

Fragrant Sumac

A lush sumac shrub with green leaves and clusters of crimson berries, exuding a delicate aroma, beckoning birds and bees with its inviting colors.Fragrant sumac emits a lemon-like scent when its leaves are crushed.

An underused native shrub, fragrant sumac has spectacular fall foliage and makes an excellent shrub for borders and hedges. They’re hardy, easy to grow, and have an appealing, rounded form. Fragrant sumac is also a valuable wildlife plant, attracting pollinators, birds, and butterflies. 

Fragrant sumac gets its name from the lemon-like scent that comes from its crushed leaves. This charming native shrub is widespread throughout eastern North America, growing in thickets and along forest edges. Fragrant sumac isn’t too picky about soil quality as long as the soil is well-drained. It does very well both in full sun and partial shade.

Mapleleaf Viburnum

Vibrant red mapleleaf viburnum berries nestled among lush green leaves, creating a striking contrast in colors and textures.Form a hedge in wildlife-friendly habitats by growing mapleleaf viburnums together.

The mapleleaf viburnum is a small to medium-sized deciduous shrub native to central and eastern North America. This attractive plant loves a shaded location in a woodland garden or along a wooded edge where you can best see and appreciate its showy flowers and leaves. Grow a few mapleleaf viburnums together to form a hedge, or use them as showy shrubs in your wildlife-friendly native plant habitat.

In the spring, rounded clusters of small, pure white flowers adorn this shrub, attracting abundant early-season pollinators. In the autumn, enjoy the showy and colorful display of red-orange foliage. If you have multiple viburnums, they will cross-pollinate and produce abundant ornamental dark purple-black fruits that will also attract hungry fall and winter birds. 


Bunches of ninebark shrub buds and leaves, vivid and lush, soaking in the sunlight, revealing intricate textures and delicate details in their blossoming state.This deciduous shrub’s reddish exfoliating bark adds winter garden appeal.

There are a few ninebark shrubs that are highly desirable in the landscape. The Atlantic ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is native to eastern and central North America, and the Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) is native along the west coast of North America. You can also find several interesting cultivars of each species with more variety of colorful flowers and leaves.

Ninebark is a deciduous shrub with a dense, many-branching habitat. They typically prefer moist habitats with dappled shade and are excellent landscaping plants for a moist wooded edge or streambank. Ninebark blooms in the spring and summer and has very showy flower clusters that attract many butterflies and native bees. In the winter months, when the leaves have dropped, you will appreciate the attractive, reddish, exfoliating bark in your winter garden.

Nootka Rose

A close-up of lavender Nootka roses showcasing bright yellow centers, embraced by lush green leaves, inviting admiration and evoking a sense of serene beauty in nature's embrace.Handle nootka rose with gloves due to its prickliness.

Nootka rose is a wild rose native to the west coast of North America and several western states. In its natural habitat, it grows in open forests, shrubby edges, and along wetland borders. As a landscaping plant, be prepared for some regular maintenance of this vigorous and fast-growing plant. Nootka rose spreads quickly, so unless you want to grow a rose thicket, keep it pruned regularly. 

Nootka rose blooms in the spring, attracting pollinators, and its showy bright orange fruits ripen in early fall. In the winter, any fruits remaining on the plant provide a very showy display before they are consumed by wildlife. You’ll want to wear gloves while working with your Nootka rose plants because they are quite prickly. 

Red-flowering Currant

Pink flowers of the sunlit red-flowering currant contrast beautifully against the backdrop of lush green leaves, creating a stunning botanical display in the radiant sunlight of a spring morning.Enjoy this red-flowering currant in jams and pies.

The red-flowering currant is a stunningly beautiful deciduous shrub native to the North American west coast. This appealing medium-sized shrub blooms in the spring with dangling clusters of brilliant pink flowers. Pollinators visit the flowers, and they are a clear favorite of hummingbirds. The currant fruits ripen in the summertime, providing a valuable food source for birds, small mammals, and humans. Many people harvest and enjoy the fruits for jams, preserves, and pies. 

Red-flowering currant grows well in either full sun or partial shade. Give it dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. If you have limited space, this is a good shrub for growing in a large container on your patio garden. Dozens of hybrids and cultivars are available with varying flower colors, growth patterns, and fruit characteristics. 

St. Andrew’s Cross

Dark and pink Shrubby St. John’s wort berries rest gracefully atop leaves, creating a vivid scene of nature's hues blending harmoniously in a woodland setting.Prune St. Andrew’s Cross annually to control growth and spread.

St. John’s wort plants are widespread worldwide. But one of the best Hypericum species for North American gardeners is St. Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides). This plant is adaptable to a variety of growing sites and prefers a sunny location with well-drained soil. 

St. Andrew’s Cross has a long summer blooming season. The bright yellow flowers attract butterflies and pollinators, and the ornamental seed capsules attract fall-foraging birds. These plants will spread to form colonies, both by self-seeding and rhizomes. Prune your St. John’s wort patch each spring to help control their growth and reduce any unwanted spread.

Silky Dogwood

A lush silky dogwood shrub adorned with clusters of blue berries, nestled among a tapestry of verdant leaves, painting a picturesque scene of natural beauty and abundance.The silky dogwood supports diverse wildlife through its fruits and flowers.

Silky dogwood is a small to medium-sized deciduous shrub native to central and eastern North America. If you are familiar with the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), the silky dogwood is a smaller shrub with a densely branching habit and rounded form. Silky dogwood displays clusters of small, creamy-white flowers in the spring. This is a beautiful shrub for a quiet, woodland shade garden. 

Silky dogwood prefers moist soil and even tolerates periodically wet conditions. If you’re looking for a shrub for your rain garden or the edge of a wetland, stream, or pond, this is a great option. Silky dogwood also supports many wildlife species, including birds that eat the clusters of small, purple fruits and numerous pollinators that visit the flowers. 

Virginia Sweetspire

A Virginia sweetspire shrub up close, its slender white flowers basking in sunlight among green leaves, offering a delicate and serene sight in the garden's embrace.The graceful arching branches of this plant boast showy spring blooms.

Virginia sweetspire is an evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub native to the southeastern United States. This attractive shrub likes a shaded location but isn’t too picky about soil conditions as long as the soil stays moist. Virginia sweetspire makes an attractive hedge or mass planting and will spread by root suckers unless these suckers are pruned each spring

Virginia sweetspire has a bushy, densely-branched form with long, gracefully arching branches. It’s showiest in the spring when it bursts into bloom. During peak flowering, the entire plant appears to be covered with long, fragrant, white flower racemes. During autumn, be prepared for another showy display as the foliage turns brilliant shades of purple and scarlet. If you’re browsing at a garden center, you may find some of the cultivars of this plant that are equally showy. 

Winterberry Holly

A winterberry holly shrub flaunting red berries nestled amid glossy, evergreen leaves, evoking festive charm in the winter landscape, a splash of crimson against verdant foliage.This valuable wildlife-friendly shrub grows densely with a dome-like form.

Winterberry holly is a wonderful choice for a moist, partially shaded landscape location. This beautiful shrub is native to eastern North America, and unlike most other hollies, it is deciduous. As the leaves drop off for the winter, you will enjoy the extremely showy bright red clusters of berry-like fruits that line the stems. Many birds will also come to forage on these fruits. 

Winterberry holly grows as a dense, twiggy shrub with a highly branching, dome-like form. Use it as a wildlife plant along a woodland edge or grow several together to create a beautiful hedge row. It’s a valuable wildlife-friendly plant, providing food for birds and small mammals. The leaves are a food source for the Henry’s Elfin butterfly caterpillars. Since this holly prefers moist soil, it will also grow very well along a wetland edge. 

Witch Hazel

Yellow string-like petals adorn witch hazel flowers, resembling delicate strands woven by nature's hand, adding a vibrant burst of color to the serene green foliage of the plant.Spidery yellow flowers appear in late fall or winter.

Witch hazel is a highlight of the winter garden. This superb shrub is native to open woodlands and shrublands of central and eastern North America. It thrives in both full sun and partial shade, although you will see the best flowering in full sun. Witch hazel prefers moist, well-drained soil. 

Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub that can reach up to 30 feet tall. It develops many branches and an attractive, somewhat rounded form. With selective pruning, you can make your witch hazel look more like a small tree. In late fall or winter, witch hazel blooms with a surprisingly showy display of fragrant, spidery yellow flowers lining the stems. Since few other plants are blooming at this time of year, witch hazel is sure to be the center of attention in your landscape and will also attract the attention of any pollinators active on the warmer days of fall and winter. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When focusing on native shrubs, choose species that occur naturally in your general region. These species will be best adapted to your local climate conditions. Familiarize yourself with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to learn your zone, and then select plants that are hardy within that zone. Closely match your chosen plants with their preferred growing conditions, including sun requirements, soil type, and soil moisture. Finally, make sure you have the space to grow the plants you want. It’s tempting to overcrowd plantings, not leaving enough room for your chosen plants to grow to their mature size and spread.

There are many valuable benefits of growing native plants.

  • Native plants are well adapted to local conditions.
  • They are not invasive.
  • Native plants are low maintenance and easy to grow.
  • Native plants provide environmental services; they improve air and water quality and help prevent erosion.
  • Native plants don’t typically require extra fertilizers or pesticides.
  • Native species reduce water consumption and the need to water.
  • They benefit wildlife, providing food, habitat, nesting opportunities, and shelter.
  • They’re beautiful! Native plants are colorful and appealing.

If your yard already has non-native, but non-invasive, shrubs but you like them, it’s okay to keep them if you want. If you have identified invasive species in your yard, it’s best to try to eradicate them before starting a new landscape project. Invasive plants are very difficult to control and will try to outcompete everything else in the area.

Final Thoughts

Shrubs are wonderful landscaping plants. They add curb appeal, diversity, color, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy a variety of flowers, leaves, fruits, and even interesting stem and bark formations. Growing native shrubs is even more rewarding.

Native plants are easy to grow, hardy, and attract birds, butterflies, and various other wildlife and pollinators. Shrubs are easily incorporated into most home landscapes. They can be large or small and will complement just about any garden style. Choose the best shrubs for your yard and then enjoy their long-lived beauty!

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