Plant Winterberry for Holiday Decorations
First published on garden.org on November 20, 2008, by Suzanne DeJohn
Berry-laden holly is a classic holiday decoration and one that is easy to
grow in your back yard. While most hollies are evergreen, one of my favorites
is deciduous winterberry (Ilex verticillata), which sports densely
packed, bright red berries that really stand out on the bare branches.
There are lots of other reasons to grow winterberry, too. The plant is attractive
year-round. The flowers' nectar attracts native bees, which are important
garden pollinators. The berries persist well into winter and feed many different
species of birds. And although the plant prefers moist, acidic soil, it will
adapt to a variety of garden soil types. Winterberry is native to the eastern
North America from Quebec to Alabama and Florida -- a remarkable geographic
range for a plant -- and boasts hardiness in USDA zones 3 through 9.
Winterberry grows up to 10 feet high and wide but can be kept smaller with
regular pruning. Which is a good thing since you'll want to cut lots of berry-filled
branches for decorations and floral arrangements. Plant winterberry where
you can enjoy the view of the winter berries from a window.
Like most hollies, winterberry is dioecious, meaning there are separate male
and female plants. Both produce small, hard-to-see flowers; in order to get
berries, you need a male plant of a compatible variety within 40 feet or
so to pollinate the flowers on the female plant. Male plants don't produce
There are numerous cultivated varieties of winterberry, so read plant labels
carefully. 'Red Sprite' is a compact variety, growing just 3 to 4 feet tall.
'Sparkleberry' is noted for its abundant fruit production. The berries on
'Winter Gold' are golden-orange. Plant descriptions should indicate compatible