Holiday Decorating With Winterberries

Branches studded with bright red, orange or yellow berries add color to wreaths, swags and vases.

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By:

Photo By: Proven Winners

Photo By: Proven Winners

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Stargazer Barn

Simple Winterberry Arrangements

Winterberries are pretty enough to use by themselves. "People love the simplicity of the red berries on the branches," says Bill Prescott of Stargazer Barn. "Use 10 or 12 stems in a vase for a clean, beautiful look." If a few berries start to turn brown or wilt, just pick them off and discard them. Note: the ASPCA says winterberries are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Avoid using winterberries around animals and children.

Field of Winterberries

It's hard to imagine a plant that becomes more beautiful when it loses its leaves, but winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is just that plant. When the foliage drops in fall, branches studded with red, orange-red or yellow berries shine. They're stunning to use in wreaths, swags and indoor arrangements."Winterberries grow all over the U.S.," says grower Bill Prescott of Stargazer Barn, a supplier of flowers, wines and gifts. "Our winterberries are bred for floral use, so they have long stems and nice, lateral branches that are dense with berries." 

Winterberry Plants

Cold nights trigger these deciduous plants to lose their leaves. In the California mountains, where the Stargazer Barn winterberries grow, the colorful berries attract hungry birds and black bears. (Avoid using or growing winterberries around dogs, cats and horses; the ASPCA says they're toxic to these animals.)

Winterberries and Oriental Lilies

The perfume of Oriental lilies mingles with the scent of fresh-cut cedar to make this floral arrangement, called "Deck the Halls", smell "magical, like Christmas," Prescott says. The Oriental lilies are 'White Cup' and the greenery is 'Port Orford', a cedar from the forests that surround Stargazer Barn.

Winterberry and Lily Tablescape

Use winterberry stems to make spectacular centerpieces and other arrangements. A red lily tops this tablescape of winterberries, Oriental lilies, calla lilies, greenery and rose hips.

Three Winterberry Vases

Dress up a few simple flowers and evergreens with winterberries. J. Schwanke, a floral expert at, slipped ribbons from a previous year's Christmas gifts over these small vases and added white tulips, lilies and greenery. Arrangements like these are a quick and easy way to upcycle and recycle. 

Winterberry Windowbox

When used outdoors in cool weather, these cut stems of 'Berry Heavy Gold' winterberries will keep for a long time. The windowbox also holds red 'Arctic Sun' dogwood, blue spruce and 'Soft Serve' False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisfera).

Winterberry Urn

A gray urn comes to life with this arrangement of red winterberries and greenery. In the wild, winterberries grow in moist wooded areas, swamps or along streams and ponds. In the garden or landscape, the plants grow slowly and need little maintenance. Gardeners in hardiness zones 3 to 9 can grow shrubs like 'Berry Nice' or 'Berry Poppins' among other types of winterberries

Winterberry Floral Arrangement

When you're ready to arrange your harvested winterberry branches, trim off about an inch from the ends. Remove and discard any berries that would be below the water line in your container; this will help prevent bacteria from growing. Then add fresh water and a floral preservative. Change the water as needed.

Winterberries with Tulips

Mix cuttings of cedar or fir for an aromatic display. For color, add white tulips and winterberry stems. 

Assemble a Winterberry Wreath

It's easy to make a winterberry wreath for your front door, says Prescott. Start with a "bare bones" wreath from a home and garden center; this one came with a few pine cones already attached. 

Winterberry Stems

Use fresh cuttings of winterberries. Their stems are thick, so use garden shears to trim them to the length desired. Remove an inch or two of berries from the bottom of each stem.  

Add Winterberries to a Wreath

Add as many winterberry stems as desired. Keep them going in the same direction as the evergreen cuttings, and push them down far enough to secure them in the wire structure of the wreath. Toss any berries that fall off into a martini glass to display on your bar or mantle, or add them to a basket of potpourri in the guest bath. Remove the berries when they start to go brown or shrivel. Keep winterberries away from pets and children; they can be toxic.

Winterberry Christmas Wreath

When your wreath is as full as you want, hang it on the door. The cold outside air will help it last a long time. Avoid putting the wreath in direct sunlight.

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