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Ornamental Plants That Improve Bird Habitats

By:b hirst

Birds can be an important addition to any landscape. Selecting the best ornamental plants that help improve the habitat of your back yard should be choosen for features that provide birds with food and shelter.

Viburnums provide excellent food and shelter for bird habitats.

We fell that viburnums are attractive, versatile, adaptable shrubs for any garden. They can serve as hedges or screens and in mixed perennial and shrub borders. We like them most as specimen plants. They usually in the form of shrubs, but can become small ornamental trees(sieboldi). They range in size from the small Dwarf American Cranberry at 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide, to the Siebold at over 15 feet tall.

Viburnums are plants with year round interest. Viburnums have white to pink flowers in the spring. Some are fragrant. They have large, attractive and often textured leaves. Some viburnums have wonderfully fragrant flowers that are produced in snowball like clusters in the spring. The flower clusters can be of pink buds, which develop into white flowers. Some fruits are red and turn black with age. Leaves are glossy, dark green and turn a burgundy color in the fall. Midsummer berries are an important food source for birds. Viburnums are a must for the avid birder. Viburnums can have colorful red to purple leaves. Some viburnums can become medium-size trees, especially if they are pruned. Viburnums are specimen plants or as anchors in mixed borders and hedges. You won't find a more versatile group of shrubs for hedges or for massing in groups, since viburnums hold their own in every season and landscape. Some viburnums, such as Prague viburnum, are evergreen and have fragrant flowers. Others, such as leatherleaf viburnum, are semi-evergreen in colder climates, losing their leaves when temperatures dip below 10 degrees.

We like Viburnums because of their adaptability and durability. While they would prefer full sun and moderately watered, well-drained rich soils, they grow very well in part shade in alkaline, clay soils. Diseases and pests are not common for viburnums. We have more trouble from my kids running over them with brush hogs. They claim they were testing their durability. Yet all the viburnums they chopped to the ground survived. In fact, we sold these plants for a premium as they produced better numbers of desireable stems. Their fibrous root system makes them transplant and propagate easily. (We do have more difficulty with the Korean Spice rooted cuttings.)

If you are shopping for a sharp hardy shrub consider one of the many cultivars of the Viburnum family. In fact select a couple of them. You will be rewarded with shrubs with all season interest.

Viburnums have long been popular garden plants, celebrated for their white, often fragrant spring flowers and their fall color. But it's the Asian viburnums that are prized. Perhaps the most widely known viburnums are the Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii), and the Korean spice viburnum (V. carlesii), both of which fill the air with an enchanting clovelike aroma in mid-spring. (The Mohican is a cross of the two.) Also popular is the doublefile viburnum (V. plicatum f. tomentosum), valued for its layered habit, fall foliage, and clusters of red fruits, and its close relative the Shasta, a gold medal winner. Viburnum acerifolium (Maple-leafed viburnum) Although I wouldn't garden without any of these, I have a special fondness for native viburnums. They may not provide the flower fragrance of their Asian counterparts, but I love them for their fall foliage color and for their fruit displays, which attract birds to my garden in the fall and winter months. In addition, several are useful to waterwise gardeners or in urban conditions. They require only corrective pruning, and none commonly suffer from pests or diseases.

Viburnums are considered moist woodland plants. In nature they are found along steam banks from Long Island to Florida. When you come to our 5275 West Swamp Rd. location ask us to show some in their native habitat that we found along our stream bank. These plants perform well under normal landscape conditions. I especially like the floral display in the spring and these viburnums that bear fruit in the fall. Winterthur has great red leaves and abundant fruit in the fall. This cultivar needs a cross pollinator such as viburnum nudum.

Native Americans used Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum) for arrow shafts. The stems are long and strait. This plant will grow in places many plants struggle. So if you have had trouble with plants in a harsh location try this cultivar.


We raise over 10 types of Viburnums on our farms from seedlings to 5' shrubs. If you have poor soils due to compacting from construction, try viburnums. Being rugged and hardy, they perform where other plants fail.

American Cranberry Bush




Chicago Luster (we have 500 3-6' that must be sold by Sept 28 2005)


Summer Snowflake



Blue Muffin




If you are searching for a good-looking hardy shrub which will attract and feed birds consider one of the many members of the Viburnum family.

The food for birds should be available from trees and shrubs in the landscape. Natural food sources are best. Try to copy the native sources that will provide food as is needed by native bird populations. Plants should provide an available food supply all-year-round. Native trees and shrubs native to your area ensures that fruits and berries are available for the local bird population.

Whenever you select a plant for bird habitat improvement try to maintain a balance of 20-25% evergreens. The evergreen can be broadleafed such as holly or in the cedar family such as the eastern red cedars. Multi stemmed plants are best as they will prove better shelter. following these simple tips will increase your birding enjoyment. Judd

Korean Spice



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