o Good Shrubs for Wildlife

Your shrub is an ecosystem

Shrubs provide food or a home for many creatures, some welcome and some less so. Many gardeners make special efforts to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, but most would prefer that deer don't eat their pride and joy. Wild birds have to roost and nest somewhere and often it is in large shrubs.

The simplest rule to follow when choosing a shrub that will attract wildlife is to choose something native to your area. Birds and insects are very well adapted to native flora, but usually have little use for exotic shrubs. Hummingbirds and butterflies are especially picky and can often only survive on one type of plant.

There are other useful points to bear in mind. We all think of providing berries for the winter months, but berries are also a very valuable food source in summer and autumn, so add shrubs that crop at different times of the year. Gardeners with large amounts of land can have a serious beneficial effect by providing habitat, but also by linking habitats using hedgerows.


Butterflies need plants for two main things: nectar for themselves; and food for caterpillars. They usually raise their caterpillars on one or a very few types of plant. They are also choosy about where to get their nectar. Many of the shrubs that attract butterflies with nectar will also attract hummingbirds.

Latin nameCommon NameCommentsUSDA zones
Abelia grandifloraGlossy AbeliaLong flowering season attracts butterflies.6-10
Abutilon hybridumChinese LanternGood for hummingbirds too.8-11
BuddleiaButterfly BushFamous for attracting butterflies, they come for the nectar.5-9
Caesalpinia gilliesiiBird of ParadiseExotic flowers bring exotic butterflies.9-12
CrataegusHawthornHost plant for Swallowtails and Hairstreaks.4-9
HibiscusHibiscusNectar for butterflies.5-9
Hypericum 'Hidcote'St John's WortHost for Hairstreak caterpillars.5-9
Kolkwitzia amabilisBeauty BushNectar attracts many butterflies.4-8
Lindera benzoinSpicebushHost plant for Swallowtail caterpillars.4-8
MalusCrabappleRotting fruit attracts some butterflies. Also host for Swallowtail and Hairstreak caterpillars.4-9
Prunus serotinaBlack CherryHost plant for several butterfly larvae.3-9
RhododendronRhododendron/AzaleaAttracts butterflies when in flower.3-9
RibesFlowering CurrantHost for Angelwing caterpillars and provides nectar when in flower.4-9

Birds except Hummingbirds

Birds are attracted to some shrubs for food, usually berries, and for nest sites. Almost any shrub that produces berries provides a feast for some bird or other. Hummingbirds feed on nectar and so they tend to like many of the same shrubs that are attractive to bees.

Latin nameCommon NameCommentsUSDA zones
AmelanchierServiceberryTasty berries for everyone.3-8
AroniaChokeberryEdible berries.4-8
CornusDogwoodBerries on most varieties.5-9
CotoneasterCotoneasterSalicifolius seems very popular, the smaller ones seem to be left until last.4-9
IlexHollyRobins especially like the berries.3-10
LinderaSpicebushFruit in autumn.4-8
MahoniaGrapehollyLate summer fruit.5-9
PrunusCherry/LaurelAll Prunus fruit seem highly palatable to birds as well as humans.3-9
PyracanthaFirethornAbundant fruit for winter birds.6-10
SambucusElderSummer fruit.4-9
SymphoricarpusSnowberryBerries not always eaten but can be a good food source in harsh weather.2-8
ViburnumViburnumFruit of some types is edible by humans as well as birds.3-9

Hummingbirds and Bees

Almost any showy flowering shrub will be attractive to hummingbirds or bees. Any flowering native shrubs are generally good for bees, but hummingbirds are a little more selective.

Latin nameCommon NameCommentsUSDA zones
BuddleiaButterfly BushIt's not just butterflies that love the nectar. Bees and sometimes hummingbirds also feed here.5-9
CotoneasterCotoneasterBees love it.4-9
EscalloniaEscalloniaAnother bee magnet.8-11
IlexHollyAttracts bees during the short flowering season.3-10
LoniceraHoneysuckleSome hummingbirds feed on these shrubs.5-9
RhododendronAzalea/RhododendronHummingbirds like nectar from these.3-9
RibesFlowering CurrantWatch out for bees near this shrub in spring.4-9
WeigelaWeigelaHummingbirds are attracted to the flowers.5-9

Entered by iann

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