In the Weeds: Winterberry Holly

Our resident hands-on horticulturist-in-training, Ben Ford, enlightens us about a plant or flower sure to bring color and life to your garden, offering practical planting and maintenance tips.
By: Ben Ford
Lizard on Winterberry

Lizard on Winterberry

A lizard enjoys sunning itself on this Winterberry Holly in the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Winterberry Holly

Ilex verticillata

Adding winterberry holly can help brighten your winter garden during the gloomiest months of the year. This plant is also great for attracting birds and other wildlife to the landscape. Winterberry holly is native to wet areas along the east coast from Florida to Canada and can be grown throughout most of the United States.

In the landscape

Winterberry holly is excellent for massing and really stands out with a taller evergreen planted behind it. This hardy holly rarely ever has any pest or disease problems, making it a great plant for the novice gardener. Winterberry thrives in wet, low-lying areas but can be grown in moist well-drained soils too. Winterberry holly will survive in full shade, but it will produce the most berries in full to partial-sun, so plant accordingly.

Planting

Like all hollies, winterberry holly does require a male pollinator to produce berries. Male hollies produce small inconspicuous flowers required for pollinating a female holly, but do not produce berries. Female hollies also produce the small flowers but then produce oodles of berries in the fall. So I recommend gardeners plant this beauty in groups of three: a male in the back and two females in the front.

For the home

Winterberry holly loses its leaves in the fall to unveil clusters of bright, colorful berries. Cut branches can be brought indoors for stunning holiday décor or winter floral arrangements.

Popular selections

‘Red Sprite’  — A more compact cultivar that only reaches 4 to 5 feet at maturity. This cultivar also has nice dark-green glossy foliage.

‘Berry Heavy’  — A new cultivar that packs itself with berries which can be seen a mile away! Grows to 8 feet tall and wide.

‘Winter Gold’ — Different from the usual winterberry hollies with salmon-colored berries. Grows to 6 feet tall and wide.

Male Pollinators:

‘Southern Gentleman’ — A male pollinator for ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Berry Heavy.’

‘Jim Dandy’ — A male pollinator for ‘Winter Gold.’

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