Native Shrubs of the Prairie
and Great Plains

It's True!

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains do exist.

When we think of prairies, we conjure up visions of endless miles of flat lands and tall grasses.

Herds of buffalo and prairie dogs.

But shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains and trees that are native?

Yes, there are several natives of the prairie that can adorn your wildlife gardens .

Today the prairies are almost a thing of the past, only tiny remnants of true prairie remain.

Mostly in parks and preserves.

Destruction of these once Great Plains is no less significant and thorough than the currant destruction of the world's rain forests.

It is important to preserve our heritage and native plants.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains play a huge role.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains provide food for native wildlife like birds, deer, foxes, chipmunks and other critters.

Bushes provide a place to nest and offer protection for some birds.

Blossoms offer food for hummers, bees and butterflies.

Many bushes of the Prairie and Great Plains were a source of food for American Indians and early settlers.

These days, plantings may hide the view of a highway or act as a sound barrier.

Native plantings of the prairie can provide a cool place to rest.

To keep the prairie view, you can offer select plantings to keep the view of distant plains.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains blend well with native prairie grasses.

Because the Prairies and Great Plains cover a large area, some bushes may work in one area but not another.

Face it, Canada is a bit colder than Northern Texas.

Local garden centers and nurseries can help you choose some shrubs of the prairie native to your region.

Several bushes and trees that are native to the Northeast and Southeast are also native to many regions of the Prairies and Great Plains.

Here are a few native Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains that should work well when gardening for wildlife.

Buffaloberry fruit

Silver buffalo berry (Shepherdia argentea): A great native plant substitute for the invasive exotic plants, 'Autumn Olive' and 'Russian Olive'.

Buffalo berry has attractive silver-green foliage and bark and produces lots of orange-red fruits in August that are edible by people and sought after by birds.

Buffalo berry is a thorny bush with upright, mounded growth. The thorns provide excellent protection for nesting birds.

Fruits provide food for several fruit eating birds and small animals.

Like many plants of the Prairie and Great Plains it's an Xeriscape plant, tolerating extreme drought, cold and alkaline conditions.

This is one tough plant.

Native to much of North America, Buffalo berry grows 6 feet to 10 feet tall and wide. It is hardy from zones 2 - 8.

It makes a great hedge row plant.

arrowwood viburnum Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) is another prairie bush.

A common viburnum throughout much of the United States and southern Canada.

Given the name Arrowwood because American Indians used the straight branches to craft arrows.

This species of viburnum grows to around 9 feet high and wide and offers nesting sights and protection for several species of birds.

Bushes offer more than fruits.

Flowers offer food for butterflies and bees in the spring.

Around August, berries turn red and then purple when ripe.

Plant life of the prairie need to tolerate severe growing conditions and viburnum fit the bill.

They prefer well drained moist soil, but handle heat and dry conditions.

Arrowwood viburnum grow in acid to alkaline soils.

They handle full sun to partial shade, which means they can be a woods edge or understory bush as long as there is some sun.

Hardy from zones 2 to 9 which makes these natives ideal for the different weather conditions the Great Plains dishes out.

Fruits offer needed food for many berry eating birds and small animals.

Western sandcherry

Western sandcherry (Prunus besseyi) is included on the list of bushes of the prairie and northern Great Plains.

It is native to Central North America - Manitoba and Minnesota to Kansas and Utah.

Western sandcherry inhabits sandy hills, open plains, rocky slopes or shores.

Sandcherries grow to 5 feet and are hardy to zone 3.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.

It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Like the Buffalo berry, it is a fruit for humans as well as birds and small animals.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains need to be tough and this is one tough plant for your wildlife gardens.

For the wide open spaces..............

Skunkbush or Squawbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) fits the bill.

Skunkbush berries

Skunkbush grows throughout the Midwest.

Yes, covering the Great Plains from North to South, East to West and mountainous regions, to elevations of 11,000 feet.

Skunkbush gets its name from the aroma of crushed foliage.

Also called Squawbush as the tender young stems were used with grass to weave water tight baskets.

Like most sumac's, it spreads by rhizomes or roots, creating a nice thicket for wildlife to hide and nest.

Berries offer food to birds and small animals in the winter when little else is available.

It also provides some browse for deer, elk, and pronghorn when more preferred forage is unavailable.

This bush can tolerate alkaline and drought conditions. It does well in temperatures to 100 degrees with little extra water.

It likes the sun or shade and will grow faster with regular deep monthly watering. Excellent for erosion and windbreaks.

Hardy in zones: 3 to 8. Height: 3-12 feet and spreads up to 7 feet.

Plantings are used for erosion control, roadsides, parks and open areas.

There are several cultivars now available.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains may also include these plants.

Golden current (Ribes odoratum ) and Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) are native to the wetlands, marshes and river beds of Iowa and Missouri as well as other regions.


These bushes need more water and are hardy from zones 4 to 8.

Bushes and trees offer fruits as food to several species of birds and other wildlife.

Buttonbush is a favorite of hummers and butterflies.

If you live near a stream or wetland, these are a must.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Great Plains also include some evergreens.

Junipers (Juniperus) are as hardy as they come and as shrubs of the prairie will tolerate most conditions.

They are probably the most wide spread species worldwide.

Hardy to zone 2 and can handle what Mother Nature dishes out.

Junipers offer food for all kinds of wildlife, including birds when little else can be found.

Often, flocks of robins and waxwings will descend in the cold of winter to these shrubs of the prairie.

Shrubs of the Prairie and Plainsmay include Great basin sage brush (Artemisia tridentata) is also an evergreen of the Of the Great Basin.

A cousin of silver mound (the perennial), sage brush is a reminder of the old west.

Hardy from zones 4 to 9 it does well in slightly acid to alkaline soils.

A butterfly favorite.

Red-berried elder (Sambucus racemosa), Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) and a host of other shrubs of the prairie are there for you to create your native wildlife landscapes.

Native Junipers, while considered a small tree, fit into the shrub category as well.

Junipers offer berries for winter feeding (male and female required)and the thick evergreen plant offers year round protection for birds and nesting during the season.

Junipers are the most common plant world-wide and can grow in most conditions.

Build a Wildlife Habitat in Your Yard

Shrubs of the Prairie and other Regions (Main Page)

Native Trees of the Prairie

Native Grasses

Flowers of the Prairies and Great Plains

Build a Hummingbird Garden

Feeding Hummingbirds, Tips and Pests

Create a Butterfly Friendly Yard

Water for All Your Wildlife

Share Your Passion with Site Build It

Custom Search

Gardens, Birds, Butterflies and much more.

Sign up for your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.