Plant of the Week - Winterberry

This time of the year, you may be driving down the street and happen to notice a planting of deciduous shrubs loaded with big bright red berries, or closer to the Holidays, see a Holiday Porch Pot accented with leafless branches loaded with those same big red berries. You may think holly, but then you remember holly is evergreen and would have leaves on the branches. Well guess what? You’re right…it is a holly, but one that loses its leaves in the fall, thus being a deciduous holly. Chances are its Ilex verticillata, or commonly known as ‘Winterberry’. Yep, it’s a native holly, flowers in the spring (male and female plants so you need a male to pollinate the females) on last year’s growth, and produces big red berries late in the season that are a real standout in the landscape, as well as in Holiday decorations. And yes, eventually the birds will eat those berries! The leaves are a good green, and drop in the fall after turning a nice yellow fall color. That’s why the berries stand out so much; big, red, and no leaves to hide them! Tough, hardy (Zone 3), tolerates moist soils, sun to part shade, and prefers pH in the mid 6’s or lower. Many selections available today, some of which can grow as much as 10-12’ high or stay as low as 5 feet. Some of the more popular female selections include Winter Red, Afterglow, Cacapon, Red Sprite, Short Cake, and Winter Gold for a yellow berry. Don’t forget the males: Apollo, Jim Dandy, and Southern Gentleman.

Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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