Winterberry – A Holly Like No Other

 In Horticulture

Written by Director of Horticulture Les Parks

Bright red berries of winterberry plant
Ilex verticillata

     Winterberry is not a difficult plant to grow, it thrives in our climate, and it is not typically bothered by pests or diseases. Even deer and rabbits tend to ignore them. They do well in full sun to partial shade, though too much shade will reduce flowering and consequently reduce fruiting. They will also do well in the wetter areas of your garden and don’t mind the poor drainage that is detrimental to so many other plants. Once they are established they can even take a bit of drought.

     There are several selections of winterberry available, including some with orange or yellow fruit for the non-traditionalist. The ultimate size of the plant varies by selection, and there are even some dwarf varieties available. The most important thing to consider when selecting winterberry varieties is pollination. Specific female plants must have a specific male plant for pollination. If the flowers on each sex are not open at the same time in spring, pollination will not occur, so use the chart below to play matchmaker. One male can pollinate many females as long as they are within 50’ of each other.

     Winterberry has a lot going for it. It is native; attracts pollinators; feeds the birds; it is easy to grow; and it is a beautiful addition to the landscape, especially in winter when we need bright color. On top of all that, you could also make a little money on the side from them. Just in time for the holidays, cut winterberry branches are sold at the florist for about $15-20 apiece! At that price, a few stems will more than pay for the cost of the plant, not that you should need any additional incentive to plant this holly like few others.

Winterberry Chart
Female VarietiesSizeFruitPollinated by
Afterglow3-6′ T&Wred orangeJim Dandy
Aurantiaca5′ T&Worange-red aging to orange-yellowJim Dandy
Berry Heavy®6-8′ T&Wlarge, bright orange redMr. Poppins® or Jim Dandy
Berry Heavy® Gold6-8′ T&Wlarge, bright goldMr. Poppins® or Jim Dandy
Berry Nice®6-8′ T x 3-4′ Wbright redJim Dandy
Berry Poppins®3-4′ T*Wbright redMr. Poppins®
Bonfire (hybrid)8-12′ T x 10-12′ Wmasses of small red berriesJim Dandy
Cacapon5′ T&W or moreheavy fruiting, true redJim Dandy
Chrysocarpa7′ T&Wnaturally occurring yellow berriesJim Dandy
Goldfinch3-7′ T&WgoldJim Dandy
Harvest Red (hybrid)10′ T x 15′ Wlarge, deep redRaritan Chief
Little Goblin® Orange3-4′ T&Wbright orangeLittle Goblin® Guy
Little Goblin® Red3-4′ T&Wbright redLittle Goblin® Guy
Oosterwijk4-6′ x 6-8′bright redSouthern Gentleman
Red Sprite3-5′ T&Wdense clusters of bright red berriesJim Dandy or Apollo
Shaver 5′ T&Worange-redJim Dandy
Sparkleberry (hybrid)12′ T&Wlarge, bright redApollo
Stoplight8’T&Wdeep redJim Dandy
Sunsplash6-7′ T&Worange-red fruit, variegated foliageJim Dandy
Winter Gold7′ T&Wpinkish orange aging to yellowSouthern Gentleman
Winter Red6-8′ T&Wabundant, bright redSouthern Gentleman, Apollo, Raritan Chief
Male VarietiesSize
Apollo (hybrid)10-12′ T&W
Jim Dandy3-6′ T x 4-8′ W
Little Goblin®4′ T&W
Mr. Poppins®4′ T&W
Raritan Chief (hybrid)4-5′ T x 6-8′ W
Southern Gentleman6-9′ T&W
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