9 Great Plants for Feeding Wildlife in the Winter

9 Great Plants for Feeding Wildlife in the Winter

Bird eating fruit in tree during winter

In the dead of winter, when the landscapes are barren, it can be difficult for wildlife to find food to survive, especially in urban areas. Instead of having critters getting into your trash can looking for a meal, why not consider providing them a buffet in your backyard? Here are nine plants that can provide for wildlife during the winter!

1.  American Persimmon - Diospyros virginiana

Edible fruits are essential to wildlife looking to survive the winter, Persimmon In The Winterand American persimmon provides. Bright orange fruits up to 2 inches in diameter provide a delicious snack to both wildlife and humans. This small tree also provides nesting sites for many bird species.

Other notable characteristics:
* Yellow, red and purple fall color
* Scented flowers in spring
* Decorative bark
* 40 feet tall, 30 feet wide at maturity
* Zones 4-9

2.  American Crabapple - Malus spp.

American Crabapple provides delicious red fruits into the winter seasons for wildlife to eat. Depending on what species you have in your area, you will see a variety of birds and small mammals eating the fruit. This fruit helps provide essential energy to the wildlife to allow them to make it through the winter seasons.

Other notable characteristics: waxwing birds eating crabapples
* Berries persist all winter long
* 20-30 foot spread
* White flowers with green foliage, or pink flowers with purple foliage
* Red or orange fall color
* Zone 3-9

Varieties to consider:
Prairiefire,  Deep burgundy berry, pink spring flowers
Donald Wyman,  Vibrant red berry, white spring flowers
Red Jewel, Prolific red berries, 15-20 feet

3.  Smooth Sumac - Rhus glabra

sumac berriesSumac Berries In Winter. Smooth sumac has bright red berries that persist all winter long, which provides an emergency source of food for the dead of winter to many bird species. It is best planted in large sites - as it has a tendency to create clones and spread. It is said that the fruits can be boiled to create a lemonade-type drink.

Other notable characteristics:
* Smooth green foliage
* Vibrant red fall color
* Twisted stems in winter
* Full sun, Zone 3-9
* 10-15 feet tall  

4.  Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac - Rhus typhina

red staghorn sumacCompared to smooth sumac, Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac is a little less wild and better suited for manicured landscapes. It still has the red berries that are a favorite of many birds, but the branches are covered with a soft, downy layer, similar to that of velvet on stag horns - giving rise to its common name.

Other notable characteristics:
* Delicate lacy chartreuse foliage
* Bright red and orange in fall
* Zones 3-8
* 12-15 feet tall  

5.  Southern Wax Myrtle (Northern Bayberry) - Myrica pensylvanica

Delicate lavender berries persist long into the winter months, making it ideal for wildlife to feed on. This shrub can be trained into a tree formsouthern wax myrtle in winter if desired, making it adaptable for both mass plantings and focal points. Both deer resistant and a natural insect repellant, this shrub's leaves also boast a distinct, pleasant fragrance.

Other notable characteristics:
* Tolerant of sandy and salty soils
* Zones 3-7
* Semi-evergreen
* 6-9 foot spread  

6.  Winterberry - Ilex verticillata

Vibrant red berries in the winter become a bird buffet with this shrub, while the evergreen leaves provide shelter and nesting sites. As winterberry is a dioecious plant, it is necessary red winterberryto have both a male and a female plant for successful flowering. With a range of sizes, there are plenty of options for your landscape.

Other notable characteristics:
* Zones 4-9
* Evergreen
* Red berries persist

Cultivars to consider:
Red Sprite  female, compact 3-foot spread
Jim Dandy male, 4-foot spread  

7.  American Cranberrybush Viburnum - Viburnum trilobum

Even though this shrub is not a cranberry you'll find on your table at Thanksgiving, American Cranberrybush Viburnumthis shrub has edible fruits favored by wildlife. The berries can also be used to make jams and jellies for human consumption. Known to thrive in moist soils, this shrub is a flock pleaser.

Other notable characteristics:

* Glossy green leaves
* Red fall color
* 10 by 12 foot spread
* Zones 2-7

8.  American Bittersweet - Celastrus scandens

Bittersweet Berries In WinterBright orange capsules open and reveal bright red fruits on this vine. Though it needs a structure to grow up, it is a bird's delight, especially in the late winter. Also, you can use the decorative pods as decoration in your house.

Other notable characteristics:
* Yellow fall color
* Highly adaptable to most soil conditions
* Zones 5-8
* Spreads 15-20 feet  

9. Grey Twig Dogwood - cornus racemosa

White berries favored by many mammals and birds cover this shrub in the winter months. Its dense branches also provide essential nesting sites and cover for wildlife, while the gray twigs are decorative Grey Twig Dogwoodand beautiful. This is a highly adaptable shrub that will thrive in almost any situation.

Other notable characteristics:
* 10 to 15 feet spread
* Young twigs are red
* Bright green foliage
* Red fall color
* Zones 2-8  

Winter always seems very dreary, especially when it comes to enjoying the wildlife. Incorporating at least one of these suggested plants into your landscape can provide wildlife with essential habitat and food in the winter months. 

← Previous Next →