Winter Berry (Ilex verticillata) is one of the few shrubs that produce color during the winter months. Also known as Winterberry Holly, this shrub is adaptable to most climates and will drop its leaves in autumn to reveal fiery red berries that brighten the wintery landscape and attract songbirds. So how do you grow winter berry then?
Winter Berry is easy to grow and will make a colorful addition to a winter garden. Use these planting and growing tips so you (and the birds) can enjoy these bright red berries next winter.
Winter berry shrubs can be found growing wild in wooded areas and wetlands. The shrub grows best in slightly acidic and consistently moist soil that is partially shaded.
Soil acidity can be increased naturally by using pine straw (pine needles) as a mulch around the newly planted Winter Berry shrub. The leaves will turn yellow and the shrub may die if the soil is not acidic enough.
This is an ideal shrub to plant in a low-lying, moist location in your landscape or to use as an anchor plant in a rain garden.
Male and Female Plants
Winter Berry shrubs are either male or female and you must have both to have the fiery red berries in winter. One male shrub can pollinate 10 female shrubs so they can produce berries (male Winter Berry shrubs never have berries).
The plant information tag will show if the shrub is a male or female. The shrubs have to be within 50 feet of each other for pollination, so you can plant the showy female Winter Berry shrubs in a prominent landscape location and tuck the less showy male shrub in an out-of-sight location.
The female shrubs will also produce clusters of tiny white flowers in late spring that attract a wide variety of pollinators.
Winter Berry will reach a mature size of 3-15 feet (90 cm – 4.5 m) tall and equally as wide. It’s a slow-growing shrub and will take a few years to reach its mature size.
It grows naturally in a round, upright shape, so pruning if typically not needed but the shrub can be pruned in early spring if desired.
Apply a 1/2 cup of balanced fertilizer in early spring if desired, though not needed.
An established Winter Berry is pest and disease resistant and requires very little maintenance.
You may be interested in reading about Recommended Seasonal Plants here.
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