2019, Plant-of-the-month, Uncategorized

Plant-of-the-Month: Winterberry Holly

 

winterberry

People are often surprised that Winterberry Holly, or Ilex verticillata, is a holly at all, because it doesn’t have the glossy, spiky leaves that you think of when you hear the name Holly. And unlike the traditional Holly (Ilex meserveae cvs), it loses its leaves in the winter, which also seems foreign to “Holly”. While this is often seen as a bad characteristic, in this case it is when Winterberry shines, as the female plants are covered from head to toe in bright red berries. A hedge of Winterberry Holly can be a real showstopper in the snow, and the berries persist a long time- or, at least, until the birds are done with them or you have picked them for holiday decorations!

‘Red Sprite’ Winterberry grows to be about 3-4’ x 3-4’ and us very compact. It is hardy to Zone 3, so will tolerate some pretty cold conditions. ‘Sparkleberry’ is similar, but is bigger, at 8-10’ x 8-10’. Both plants will produce more berries if a male is somewhere in the vicinity, so get a ‘Southern Gentleman’ or a ‘Jim Dandy’ and stick it somewhere inconspicuous, as there are no berries and the flowers are inconsequential.

Winterberries prefer full sun to part shade and can be used in wetland areas as well in places with normal amounts of moisture. They won’t do as well in very dry conditions, although I have been surprised before.

Try some! They will make you happy when the landscape begins to look a little forlorn.

winter landscape

5 thoughts on “Plant-of-the-Month: Winterberry Holly”

  1. We tried growing hollies back in the mid 1990s, but there was not much demand here in California. None of them were every very popular. The deciduous specie and cultivars were the least popular, likely because, as you mention, they are deciduous.

      1. We also have different traditions. Even though most everyone here is from somewhere else, we tend to prefer Californian plants. I happen to be a native, but grew up with a fascination for the flora of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania and environs. You all get to grow LILACS!

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