Tropical Style

Wild Red Berry Shrubs

Using native shrubs with red berries has quite a few advantages. Berries are ornamental in the landscape, attracting birds and wildlife. As natives, they are often drought-tolerant or ready to withstand other local ecological problems. They cut down on mandatory maintenance once established. Choose evergreen shrubs to offer constant cover and a year-long presence in the backyard. These qualities provide additional value for wildlife.


Dark evergreen leathery leaves create toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) attractive all year. In spring, clusters of white flowers appear at branch ends, followed in autumn and winter by bunches of bright red berries that songbirds eat. Usually 6 to 8 ft tall, an old bush can reach 15 to 20 feet in height and can be shaped into a small tree. Toyon is indigenous to California from the foothills, chaparral and woodlands below 5,000 feet in elevation and is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. Once established, toyon is drought-tolerant, helps prevent erosion and can be fire-resistant if irrigated in the summertime.

California Coffeeberry

Native to the western United States, California coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica) extends from southwestern Oregon south to Southern California in USDA zones 9 through 11. Evergreen shrubs grow 6 to 8 feet tall and possess small, long-lasting leaves. Inconspicuous green flowers occur in spring, followed by a profusion of around, juicy berries that can be red, green or black. Coffeeberry is drought-tolerant, supplies food for birds and survives flames. It is useful as a screening and background plant in landscapes and wildlife gardens.


Clusters of plentiful small white to yellowish flowers appear in spring on division ends of redberry (Rhamnus crocea). Bushes have either male or female flowers. Female bushes produce abundant red juicy cherry-like berries in autumn which furnish reliable food for birds. Native to California’s chaparral and woodland habitats, bushes have oval, smooth-edged leathery leaves that help in drought-tolerance. Height is usually 2 to 5 ft, and spread is 5 to 10 feet. Hollyleaf redberry (R. crocea var. ilicifolia) is taller-growing, from 3 to 15 feet tall. Leaves are larger than the species, with jagged edges that resemble holly leaves. Red berries are approximately 1/4 inch long. Both shrubs are hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, and therefore are valuable for wildlife and indigenous gardens.

Lemonade Bush

The common name for lemonade bush (Rhus integrifolia) reveals the usage of sticky, fuzzy red berries for making a pink-colored sweetened beverage reminiscent of lemonade. White or pink flowers in late winter or spring are ornamental, with reddish fruit appearing in summertime. Bushes are 2 to 5 feet tall and may spread to 10 to 15 feet broad. Lemonade bush requires well-draining dirt and can be slow-growing, inhabiting Southern California’s coastal sage scrub habitat. Landscaping uses are as hedges or screens. It rises in USDA zones 9 through 11.

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