Home & Garden

New Front Yard: Robins will flock to coffeeberry

Coffeeberry  is a pretty, drought-tolerant California native shrub.
Coffeeberry is a pretty, drought-tolerant California native shrub. Ellen Zagory

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.


Rhamnus californica

Size: 6 to 9 feet tall.

Bloom season: Spring.

Pruning needs: Little or none; prune to shape while young.

Exposure: Partial shade.

Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.

Snapshot: This California native is a tough, evergreen shrub, useful as a background or screen plant. Small greenish flowers in spring are not showy, but provide an important source of nectar and pollen for beneficial insects that will help control pests in your garden. Its distinctive berries start out red, then turn black (like coffee); they provide food for many birds including robins, thrushes and tanagers. Coffeeberry is a good choice for sun or partial shade and under tall trees. It also makes a good low-water hedge. The subspecies tomentella has silvery, silky leaves that are soft to the touch. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.

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More online

See photo galleries of the arboretum’s Community Favorites and Arboretum All-Stars at sacbee.com/home_garden.

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