Ilex verticillata, winterberry, is a deciduous shrub often used in wet sites and in borders. From late fall through winter, winterberry (winterberry holly) produces an outstanding display of bright red berries, which persist on the branches even after the leaves have fallen. Facts and information on Ilex verticillata are given, along with tips on growing and caring for them.
Ilex verticillata Facts and Information
Winterberry grows in Zones 3-9 and grows 6-10’h x 6-10’w. It takes on an oval form with a slow growing habit. Only female plants produce berries. If you want berries, plant a male in close proximity to three to five female plants to ensure good pollination and subsequent fruit set. Male plants need to be carefully matched with female plants. If little or no fruit production occurs year after year in a large landscape planting, plant an early male and a late male close by.
To add eye-catching color to a winter landscape, plant winterberry in groupings or mixed among other plants that lack winter interest. The red berries contrast nicely against background snow.
The best performance is in full sun in acid, organically enriched, moist to wet soils, but it is somewhat adaptable to soils that are occasionally dry. Chlorosis and stunting occur in alkaline soils.
Female plants sited in relatively dry soils will have better berry size with irrigation during dry periods in July and August. Young plants will grow faster with annual applications of an acid plant food.
Propagation of Ilex verticillata
Propagate cultivars by stem cuttings taken in early summer. The species spreads by seeds or suckers. Seeds possess a dormancy, making germination tricky.
Pests and Diseases
Occasional leaf spot and powdery mildew rarely cause disfiguring. Plants may develop chlorosis in high-pH soils.
Winterberry- Related Species
- ‘Afterglow’ features glossy green leaves that are smaller than typical and large orange-red berries maturing to orange. It is best pollinated with ‘Jim Dandy’.
- ‘Chrysocarpa’ is a naturally occurring yellow-fruited form.
- ‘Cacapon’ is heavy fruiting, with true red fruit; the leaves are textured and dark green and glossy. Use ‘Jim Dandy’ as a pollinator.
- ‘Jim Dandy’ is a slow-growing, early-flowering dwarf male used with early flowering females.
- ‘Red Sprite’ is a popular dwarf female clone maturing at only 3-4’ tall. Early blooms produce numerous, large red fruits that persist well into winter. Use ‘Jim Dandy’ to pollinate.
- ‘Sparkleberry’ reaches 12’ tall and can become somewhat leggy at the base due ot its upright growth habit. The main attraction is the abundant red fruits that are medium size and persist often until spring.
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