Choosing Native Shrubs

By Mary Ellen Ellis | September 2, 2021
Image by Mkovalevskaya
by Mary Ellen Ellis
September 2, 2021

I moved into a house with established landscaping, so shrubs were seriously entrenched already. When I get the chance to start from scratch in my next home, I’m going native. Invasive shrubs only harm the local ecology, so I plan to choose those that support wildlife and other native plants. 

The Importance of Native Shrubs

While I love the burning bush in my yard for its stunning fall color, I would really prefer to go native with my next garden project. There are so many good reasons to choose native plants: 

  • They sequester carbon and help reduce pollution. 
  • They shelter wildlife. 
  • They provide food for wildlife.
  • Native plants are especially important for supporting pollinators. 
  • In their native environment, plants are low maintenance.
  • They can survive seasonal changes and use less water. 

Shrubs Native to Michigan

There are many great reasons for planting native species, and even more options to choose from, so you don’t have to feel limited. For Michigan, these are some of my favorites: 

  • Blackhaw viburnum. I like this taller shrub for big spaces. It also provides seasonal interest with pretty white flowers in spring, berries in early fall, and purple-red color later. 
  • Michigan holly. I love all types of holly, and fortunately there is a native species here in Michigan. It grows up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall and produces a gorgeous abundance of red berries that persist into winter. 
  • Chokecherry. This pretty little shrub produces white flower clusters and early berries that attract local birds. 
  • Blueberry. I’ve always wanted to grow my own berries, and Michigan has native blueberry species, including highbush and lowbush. I may have to fight the birds for the fruit, though. 
  • Buttonbush. If I ever end up with a soggy garden, I’ll try native buttonbush. This shrub thrives in wet soils. It has interesting foliage that changes from red to green to yellowish-green. It produces late summer flowers that butterflies enjoy. 
  • New Jersey Tea. This is a plant that has always intrigued me as a tea lover. Apparently, colonists used it as an alternative to tea when supplies ran short. Despite the name, it is native to Michigan and is a small shrub that suits perennial beds and borders. 
  • Spicebush. Another fascinating shrub is spicebush, which smells like allspice. It would suit a moist, forest area. Its leaves turn bright yellow in fall and early-winter red berries provide visual interest. 

I’m in the planning stages, or more like day-dream stage, for my future garden. It will abound with native species, including these shrubs if I have the right conditions.

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