How to Grow Winterberry Holly


Winter gardens won't be drab if the winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is part of the landscape. Tiny white flowers form in June, followed by light green pea size berries that turn pink in late summer and become a stunning red before the shrub drops its thick, shiny leaves in October. Reaching a height of 10 feet and spreading to 8 feet, winterberry is a delight in all seasons.

Things You'll Need

  • Winterberry holly
  • Shovel
  • Knife or garden shears
  • Water
  • Mulch or other organic material
  • Dig your planting hole 4 times the width of the root ball and equal in depth.

  • Prepare the shrub for planting by removing any string or wire around the branches or trunk. Cut away at least half of the burlap around the root ball.

  • Place the shrub in the planting hole and fill with water. Allow time for the root ball and surrounding soil to absorb.

  • Pulverize the original soil with your shovel if it is clumped. Backfill into the planting hole and water again deeply.

  • Spread a generous layer of mulch, 2 to 4 inches, around the base of the shrub and covering the entire planting area.

Tips & Warnings

  • Winterberry holly is very tolerant of moist soil conditions and does not mind flooding. They are frequently found in wetland areas. This shrub is an excellent choice to plant near a downspout at the corner of a house.
  • Fertilize in early November and give the shrub a good soaking before the ground freezes. This can help to prevent leaf burn from freezing winds.
  • Plant winterberry holly and ornamental grasses for interest in your winter garden. The holly's brilliant red berries last from September through February making the branches of this deciduous shrub perfect for holiday flower arrangements.
  • As is typical of holly, male and female flowers grow on different plants and fruit only forms on the female plant. Be sure your nursery or garden center provides you with the correct pollinator for the variety of holly you choose. Plant 1 or 2 males for every five females to achieve good berry formation.
  • Winterberry holly prefers a slightly acidic soil, as do most evergreen plants. Watch for yellow leaves. This may mean the soil pH has risen above neutral.

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