Customer Question:

Hi Debbie, We live in Garden City and have a flower garden with blooms or color for every season but would like to have a winterberry plant for winter color. Could you talk about growing winterberry plants in our area?

010616_winterberry-with-frost

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), is a deciduous holly and will do very well here if you keep in mind that it is not a drought tolerant plant. While they will grow in regular garden soil with regular irrigation, they do best in an area that is quite moist or swampy. They are also happier in acidic soil so you may notice some chlorosis, or leaf yellowing, if you live in an area with an especially high pH. They are listed as growing in full sun to part shade but I would offer them some protection from our intense afternoon sun.

Here are some things to note about Winterberry:

  • The plants do tend to sucker.
  • The greenish white flowers are insignificant, blooming in late spring.
  • Berries will begin to turn color in late summer and persist on the plant throughout winter.
  • Birds love them, but it has been said they are toxic to domestic pets.
  • You will need two plants, a male and a female, to get berries. A male plant will pollinate at least half a dozen female plants.
  • The plant flowers on new growth so the shrub should be pruned, if necessary, in late winter or early spring.

There are many cultivars and hybrids that will give you variations in shrub size as well as variations in berry color and size. If you have something specific in mind, purchase your plant in the fall when it’s in fruit to see what you’re actually getting.

Thanks for the question. We could all use a little color in our gardens this time of year!

Happy Gardening!

Debbie

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