10 Native Shrubs to Plant in Central North Carolina

Our Treecologists' favorite plants that thrive in planting zones 7b/8a

If you're looking for a way to help the environment while saving time, money, and effort, then planting native shrubs is a excellent place to start. They are often much easier to maintain since they’re already adapted to the local conditions. That also means less watering, more disease resistance, and greater benefits to the native plants and animals around them. Here are some of the best native shrubs to plant in zones 7b/8a.

American Beautyberry

This medium-sized shrub is named for its bright purple berry clusters that are a Fall to Winter food source for various songbirds such as the Eastern Towhee, American Robin, and Purple Finch. Animals like foxes, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums also enjoy its edible fruit. As a native of the central and southeastern U.S., this deciduous shrub grows best in full sun to partial shade conditions.


Also called Carolina Allspice, this deciduous shrub needs a lot of space to grow since it can top out at 12 feet tall with a spread just as wide. It has sweet, fragrant blooms beginning in early spring, and is a favorite of butterflies. Deer resistance and privacy screening capabilities make this an attractive option for growing both in wooded areas and near a walkway or fenceline.


These hearty evergreen shrubs not only grow quickly to heights of 10 to 30 feet, but they can withstand various soil types and aren't bothered by drought or the occasional flood. Birds and small mammals take advantage of the Yaupon's signature bright red berries found on the female plants. They will grow plentifully when a male shrub is planted nearby. Their leathery leaves are an excellent food source for butterfly larva, while adult butterflies and other beneficial pollinators are drawn in by their fragrant white flowers.

American Smokebush

The Smokebush is one of the showiest native shrubs with loads of curb appeal. It can be recognized by its colorful leaves and "smoke"-like panicles that plume out from the ends of branches after flowers appear. In addition, the heartwood can be used to produce bright yellow-orange dye. This southeastern U.S. native was almost harvested to extinction during the 18th century when it was used to dye the uniforms of Civil War soldiers.


Not to be confused with the Chinese Star Anise with its edible seeds, this compact evergreen shrub is native to the southeastern U.S. The leaves smell like anise spice when crushed, but can be toxic to ingest. These same toxins make the Anise Tree very pest resistant, however. In the early spring, they show off their purple-maroon flowers, followed by star-shaped seed pods. This shrub would do well in a rain garden or a shaded yard with rich, well-drained soil.

Flame Azeala

The fiery orange flowers of the Flame Azalea are said to look just like candle flames sticking out of the leaves of this native shrub. The funnel-shaped flowers that bloom from May to July attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that enjoy their rich nectar. Their relatively short stature makes them useful as a border or hedge, and they are just as happy in full sun as they are in deep shade.

Lowbush Blueberry

Sweet summer fruits make the Lowbush Blueberry a tasty choice for a native shrub. The small berries are often used in jams and jellies because of their sugary flavor. But before that, the bush’s flowers attract native bees and butterflies, which help with pollination. Berries are also a preferred food source for native wildlife and birds.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

The large, pyramid-shaped flower clusters make this native hydrangea a showy standout in the late spring and early summer. And not only do they host a variety of pollinators, but the flowers change colors throughout the year, from white to pink and then finally brown in the winter. This low-maintenance shrub likes full sun to partial shade and grows best in well-drained, highly organic soil.

Carolina Cherry Laurel

This evergreen shrub works well as a privacy screen and grows quickly. They are also resistant to deer.

Our Treecologists chose these shrubs specifically because they are native to NC and contribute to the local ecosystem. But that doesn't mean they can be planted anywhere. It's still important to be sure that you are selecting a tree that will thrive in the location where you plan to plant.

Carefully assessing the conditions of an area before you plant will give your trees a better chance at a long, healthy life. Considering the needs of the plant before you pick up a shovel will save you time, money, and stress in the long run. These suggestions can get you started, but we’re always happy to make recommendations.

If you have any questions about choosing the right shrub or if you are looking for a specific recommendation, send us a message.

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

How Invasive Trees and Shrubs Harm Our Local Ecosystem and One Way You Can Reverse That Damage
10 Invasive Plants to Watch Out for in Central North Carolina
Planting a Piedmont Prairie Helped Change the Way I See the World
10 Native Trees to Plant in Central North Carolina
Video | Learn How to Save Time and Help Heal Earth in Our New Book
Setting the Stage—A Conversation About Why Change is Necessary
Tree Root Structure
January 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Point of View: 2023 Year in Review at Leaf & Limb
November 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Bats are the Best (and, Unfortunately, They're Endangered)
October 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | The Story of A Seed
September 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Meadows, Thickets, and Pocket Forests: Going Beyond the Traditional Landscaping Model
Strength in Numbers: The Basics of a Pocket Forest
Wondering How to Get Rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?
August 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | From Seeds to Serenity: The Piedmont Prairie Process
10 Native Flowers and Grasses to Plant in a Central North Carolina Piedmont Prairie
July 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Tree Roots Don't Break Pipes
Do Roots Cause Damage? Debunking 3 Common Myths About Tree Roots
Stop Blaming Tree Roots: 5 Ways to Proactively Prevent Property Damage
June 2023 Treecologist Tribune
10 Native Shrubs to Plant in Central North Carolina
Video | How to Manage Invasive Plants
Managing Invasive Plants
May 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Earth Day is Every Day
Plants Make the Planet Go Round
Spring Scavenger Hunt
March Treecologist Tribune
We Are Safe At All Times: Our Approach to Tree-Climbing Safety
Video | Climbing with Archie: How to Climb a Tree Like an Arborist
Video | Day in the Life
February Treecologist Tribune
Why I Recommend Herbicide for Some Ecological Restoration Projects
Point of View: Behind the Scenes at Leaf & Limb
Video | How Hand Pruning Your Shrubs is Faster, Cheaper, and Healthier than using a Hedge Trimmer!
Checklist: Tools and Supplies for Hand Pruning Your Shrubs
Still Using Hedge Trimmers? Hand Pruning is Better for Your Shrubs
January 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Sapling Stories: Bald Cypress
October 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Friend or Foe? Snakes (Yes, Even Copperheads) Are Important to Our Ecosystem.
Project Pando Needs Your Help! How to Collect Native Tree Seeds
Project Pando: Community Seed Collection
Video | Piedmont Prairies: An Alternative to Grass and Lawns Where Beauty and Life Thrive!
August 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Planting a Piedmont Prairie Helped Change the Way I See the World
Piedmont Prairies: The Process & What to Expect
Video | How to Structurally Prune a Tree for Strength
[Case Study] Before and After: Structural Pruning on an Oak Tree
Video | How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | Bigger is Not Always Better! Planting Small Can Lead to Big Benefits.
Bigger is Not Better! 3 Reasons Why You Should Plant Trees When They are Smaller
Video | How Invasives Harm Our Local Ecosystem (And the ONE Thing You Can Do to Help)
How Invasive Trees and Shrubs Harm Our Local Ecosystem and One Way You Can Reverse That Damage
10 Invasive Plants to Watch Out for in Central North Carolina
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Fascinators and Flagella: How to Host a Tea Party for Soil Microbes
Compost Tea Makes Soil Healthy and Trees Happy
Video | Tea for Your Trees
Video | Mulch Volcanoes: Deceptively Deadly
Are Mulch Volcanoes Threatening The Trees in Your Neighborhood?
Sapling Stories: Beryl's Beauties
Video | Sheep, Seeds, and Swales: An Update from Project Pando
6 Reasons Why Planting A Native Tree Benefits the Environment and Our Local Ecosystem
Video | Drop That Rake: Save Time and Money by Leaving Your Leaves
Project Pando: Native Seed Drive 2021
Video | How to Plant a Tree: The Definitive Guide to Proper Planting
10 Simple Steps to a Perfectly Planted Tree or Shrub
Video | 3 Ways City Life Stresses Trees (And What You Can Do to Help)
Why is Tree Care Important? Outside of the Forest, Trees Face Unique Challenges.
Emerald Ash Borers are Killing Trees. A Simple Treatment Can Stop Them.
Business Conservationist of the Year
Video | Did you Know? The Secret to Fertilizing your Trees and Shrubs Without Using Chemicals.
Chemical Fertilizers: 3 Surprising Myths and Why You Should Choose Organic Matter Instead
4 Options for Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs the Cheap, Easy, and Healthy Way
Video | 4 Fundamentals of Tree Care
Not Sure How to Care for your Trees? 4 Simple Steps to Happy, Healthy Trees
[Parody] Video | Introducing Timber: the Only Dating App for Trees
Video | Introducing Archie the Arborist: 5 Amazing Tree Facts
We Show That We Care: The History of Project Pando
How to Spot a Pine Borer Infestation
Video | How to Plant a Tree: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Pick Up a Shovel
Drop that shovel! 5 Questions to Ask Before Planting
10 Native Trees to Plant in Central North Carolina
Holiday Gift Guide for That Special Tree in Your Life
Measure What Matters - We are B Corp Certified!
Video | Wood Chips: The Secret Ingredient to Healthy Trees
Top 10 Reasons to Choose Wood Chips Over Other Types of Mulch
Healthy Eating Plate for Trees
Video | Welcome to Project Pando
Video | Structure is Strength - How to Make your Trees More Safe Using Pruning.
Are Your Trees Safe? Prune to Make Them Stronger.
How to Select a Safe Branch for a Tree Swing
Your Dirt is Hungry
Video | Soil is Alive
Recipe: Savory Soil Casserole
How Trees Can Heal Earth & What We Can Do to Help
Earth Day Bingo
Video | How Trees Can Save the Earth
Spring Tree Care Checklist
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Don't Make a Deadly Mistake: Top 10 Questions to Consider Before Pruning
Video | Planning to Prune? Use this simple framework and avoid deadly mistakes.
Video | Rooted by Our Purpose: A New Direction at Leaf & Limb
Why Dead Wood is Good Wood
Video | Want More Birds in your Backyard? Plant These Native Trees.
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
Fall & Winter Tree Care Checklist
Video | Fall Tree Care Checklist: Leave your Leaves, Plant New Trees, and Other Important Tasks
Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
How I Learned to Love My Trees
Video | Trees are Critical to Our Future
Think Your Tree is Dead? Look a Little Closer
How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | How to Spot the Warning Signs: Dead, Dying or Hazardous Trees
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Trees' Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb Send an Intercom Message