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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.