Plant Native Shrubs for Wildlife

October 26 2022 – Kelly LaVaute, Staff Member

What is a Shrub?

A “shrub” typically refers to a plant that maintains its structure above the ground all year round. It can’t be divided because there is only one set of roots at the base. The main difference between a tree and a shrub is that a shrub has several main stems growing from ground level, rather than one trunk. Unlike herbs, shrubs have persistent woody stems above the ground. Shrubs can be evergreens, but they don't have to be, and some shrubs may be considered small trees but can still be defined as shrubs. 

As complicated as that definition might be, there’s no debating the benefit that a native shrub can provide local wildlife.

Plant Shrubs & Trees for Climate

Growing any flora, whether tiny orchid or towering tree, will lead to some degree of carbon storage. All plants have the amazing ability to pluck carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air and transform it into living biomass—leaves, bark, flowers, wood, shoots and roots. Because shrubs and trees have more biomass than smaller plants and generally live longer, they trap a lot more carbon. 

Trees and plants will be effective only if they’re planted in their native range. Another vote to shop native shrub species, which are naturally adapted to your climate, and also provide the best habitat for local wildlife. Native trees are nature’s champion carbon-eaters!

Alongside farmers, ranchers, and forest managers, the National Wildlife Federation is working to adopt and regularly employ practices that sequester carbon while improving wildlife habitat and natural resources. 

Plant Shrubs for Wildlife

Woody shrubs and climbers provide food, shelter and breeding places for wildlife. Nesting birds and hibernating insects make their homes in them, predators seek out insects and other invertebrates to eat, and insects like butterflies use them as a place to rest. They provide areas of shade and cover, allowing wildlife to move around (or hide) safely.

Common bird species that do not migrate, such as northern cardinals, woodpeckers and mockingbirds, depend on berrying shrubs in winter. Shrubs planted densely attract many more birds to a property like cardinals and thrushes seeking cover and nesting places.

The most important thing when planting is to shop native shrubs and plant what is native to you. Our Plant Finder Quiz can help you select the right plants for the right place. Depending on your location and garden goals, the Garden for Wildlife shrubs might be right for you. 

Grown non-GMO and free of harmful neonicotinoids just for your area, our shrubs support wildlife species including birds, butterflies, moths, and bees. Bonus? They’ll never need chemicals and require less water once established. Meet our new shrubs!


Carolina Rose

 

Grows to 1-6 Ft

Spread 1-10 Ft

Blooms May-June

Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade

Soil Moisture: Moist, Dry, Well-Drained

Soil Description: Sand, Rich Organic Matter, Clay, Rocky

Attracts: Native Bees, Bumblebees, Beneficial Insects, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Birds

Carolina Rose is a low-growing deciduous shrub that produces showy, fragrant pink flowers that attract butterflies and bright red fruit (hips) that attract birds. It grows in dry-moist, well-drained soils and will flower more abundantly in full sun locations. Provides great cover and nesting sites for birds. 

*Gardener’s note: the stems of Carolina Rose are covered in prickles; wearing gloves is recommended when planting.

Pink (Pinxterbloom) Azalea

 

Grows to 3-6 Ft

Spread 4-7 Ft

Blooms March-May

Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade (avoid afternoon sun)

Soil Moisture: Moist, Well-Drained

Soil Description: Sand, Clay, Rocky, Rich Organic Matter, Acidic

Attracts: Native Bees, Bumblebees, Beneficial Insects, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Hummingbirds

Pink Azalea is a native, deciduous shrub that features masses of showy, fragrant flowers in early spring before leaves emerge. Best-suited for soils rich in organic matter, it is ideal for a shrub border or woodland garden.

Pink Azalea has a shallow, fibrous root system and will do best when planted in an area with evenly moist but well-drained conditions and mulched.


Sweet Azalea

Spread 8-20 Ft

Blooms May-July

Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade (avoid afternoon sun)

Soil Moisture: Moist, Well-Drained

Soil Description: Sand, Rich Organic Matter, AcidicAttracts: Native Bees, Bumblebees, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Birds


Sweet Azalea is a deciduous shrub that produces clusters of fragrant white flowers with contrasting red stamens in early summer. With leaves that turn shades of bronze, red, and purple in the fall, it makes a wonderful addition to a shrub border or woodland garden.

Sweet Azalea has a shallow, fibrous root system and will do best when planted in an area with evenly moist but well-drained conditions and mulched.

Azalea Twin Pack

 

 

 

Featuring Pink Azalea and Sweet Azalea, the Azalea Twin Pack will extend your garden’s bloom season from early spring to summer. Pink Azalea produces masses of showy, fragrant flowers in early spring before leaves emerge. Sweet Azalea produces clusters of fragrant white flowers with contrasting red stamens in early summer. With different heights and sizes, these native deciduous shrubs will create layers in the landscape and make a wonderful addition to a shrub border or woodland garden.

 

 

Coastal Azalea

 

Grows to 2-6 Ft

Spread 2-5 Ft

Blooms April-May

Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade (avoid afternoon sun)

Soil Moisture: Moist, Well-Drained, Dry

Soil Description: Sand, Rich Organic Matter, Acidic

Attracts: Native Bees, Bumblebees, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Hummingbirds

Coastal Azalea is a small deciduous shrub that produces fragrant white to pale pink flowers in early spring and colorful foliage in fall. With its compact size, Coastal Azalea is suitable to grow in containers.


Swamp Azalea

 

Grows to 3-5 Ft

Spread 3-5 Ft

Blooms May-August

Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade (avoid afternoon sun)

Soil Moisture: Moist, Well-Drained

Soil Description: Rich Organic Matter, Acidic

Attracts: Native Bees, Bumblebees, Beneficial Insects, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Hummingbirds

Swamp Azalea is a deciduous shrub that features fragrant, tubular flowers in summer and colorful foliage in the fall. One of the last native azaleas to bloom in summer, Swamp Azalea is also known as clammy azalea because the blooms are covered with sticky glands. 


What to expect with Garden for Wildlife native shrubs?

Our collections also include planting instructions and plant care guidance from our pros.

In terms of sizing, our shrubs ship in one gallon containers with established root mass. In the fall, branches will be 24” to 32” tall with leaves. Spring shipments will be dormant with only branches and no leaves and a healthy one gallon root mass. These shrubs are a good focal point for a wildlife garden. Multiple shrubs can provide a border garden. Shop native shrubs.



Ready to turn your yard into a wildlife habitat?

Take our quiz to find the right plants for your yard and area!

1 comment

  • JO ANN HANSEN: November 14, 2022
    Author's avatar image

    I have an East facing, morning sun, afternoon shade space and live in Ames IA zone 5. What smaller shrubs can you recommend for the front of my house?

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