Bayberry is a semi-evergreen shrub — it retains some leaves in mild winters, and also will put on a flush of fresh leaves each spring. The berries, borne on female plants, are used in bayberry candles and remain on the plant through winter, providing both visual and ecological interest. The fruit laden branches and the leaves can be used as a fragrant indoor decoration.
The berries are relished by chickadees, red-bellied woodpeckers, tree swallows, catbirds, bluebirds, yellow-rumped warblers, and others. If planted in a large grouping, the shrubs will form a thicket that provides cover and shelter for birds. In addition, bayberry is the larval host plant for the Columbia Silkmoth.
The plants are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female plants. The female plant bears berries. There must be a male in the vicinity to pollinate the female plants.
This upright shrub grows 5′ to 8′, depending on site conditions. They occasionally can grow taller in certain sites. They can be used in hedges and wildlife borders. The spicy aroma of leaves will scent the air as you brush past the shrubs in your landscape. It is salt tolerant, so can withstand being planted near walks and drives that are salted in winter.
You can use it as part of a hedgerow, in a mass, or as a single planting. Little pruning is required. It’s habit and size lend itself to both It formal and informal settings.
This shrub is native to dunes, pine barrens, dry forests and slopes as well as bog and swamp margins. Bayberry is deer resistant, and can grow in sandy or clay soils. It creates its own nitrogen and will tolerate poor soils. Useful in rain gardens, as it can tolerate both dryness and occasional saturation. It prefers full to part sun. Since it grows in a wide range a conditions, it makes a good substitute for the invasive Japanese Barberry.
We have a crop of seed grown, genetically diverse bayberry plants ready for sale.
Determining Male or Female
Bayberries are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. The female plants will bear the berry, but a male plant is required to pollinate.
They bloom in late May and early June and you can look at the catkins to determine if you have a male or a female plant. Young seed grown plants can be either male or female and we can’t tell which until it is old enough to bloom. We identify the males in the nursery with a blue tag, and the females with a pink.
If you have one at home and would like to identify it yourself, take a look at the catkins in late May or early June. Male catkins are held in clusters and are short and stubby. Female catkins are held singly and are long and thin.