Winterberry

Scientific Name:  Ilex verticillata

Light: sun to shade

Zone:  3 to 9

Height:  6 to 12 feet

Width:  3 to 12 feet

Flowers:  June to July, white, dioecious, with separate male and female plants, insignificant

Fruit/Seed:  August to February, red, only present on female plants, poisonous to humans

Fall Color: not showy

Butterflies:

Birds:  The attractive bright red fruit of winterberry is eaten by  more than 48 species of birds.

Hummingbird:

Deer Resistant: Seldom severely damaged, leaves and stems of winterberry are not a preferred source of browse, but whitetail deer and  cottontail rabbits do utilize this plant.

Insects/Pollinators:

Native:  Carroll and throughout Maryland

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Description

Though the fruit of the winterberry has high wildlife value, being eaten by small mammals in addition to birds, it is poisonous to humans.

Winterberries only fruit on female plants but need male plants within 40 feet for pollination.  Use one male for every 10 to 12 females depending on the variety.

In late fall root suckers can be dug and transplanted to propagate. From late spring to mid-summer actively growing softwood cuttings an be taken and started under cover.

Cultivars/Varieties

‘Afterglow’ – leaves smaller than typical, compact growing (to 10′ tall and wide) with large orange-red berries maturing to orange,  best pollinated with ‘Jim Dandy’.

‘Aurantiaca’ – orange-red fruit that fade to orange-yellow, fruit less persistent than most, best pollinated by ‘Jim Dandy’, around 5′ tall

‘Chrysocarpa’ naturally-occuring yellow-fruited form.

‘Cacapon’ – 5′ tall, upright in growth, heavy-fruiting, true red fruit, pollinate with ‘Jim Dandy’

‘Jim Dandy’ – Slow-growing, early-flowering dwarf male clone, useful as a pollinator for early-flowering female clones such as ‘Afterglow’, ‘Aurantiaca’ and ‘Red Sprite’.

‘Red Sprite’ – Award-winning, only 3′ to 4′ tall,  numerous, very large red fruits which persist well in the winter.  Use ‘Jim Dandy’ to pollinate.

‘Shaver’ – orange-red fruit, 5′, use ‘Jim Dandy’ to pollinate

‘Southern Gentlemen’ – late-blooming male pollinator for ‘Winter Red’, ‘Winter Gold’, ‘Capapon’, ‘Shaver’, ‘Sparkleberry’ and other late clones.

‘Stoplight’  – large, deep red fruit, use ‘Jim Dandy’ to pollinate

‘Sunsplash’ – unusual and rare, leaves irregularly mottled and marked with yellow, red drupes

‘Winter Gold’ – pinkish or golden-orange fruit, 8′, pollinate with Southern Gentleman

‘Winter Red’ – Profuse bright red fruit that persist into winter, 8′

Ilex verticillate x Ilex serrata hybrids:   more vigorous growth than Ilex verticillata cultivars,  new leaves emerge purplish, fruit discolor by late winter.

‘Apollo’ – male clone useful as a late pollinator for ‘Sparkleberry’ and ‘Winter Red, ‘new growth is burgundy-red, 10′ to 12’ tall.

‘Autumn Glow’red fruit persist, 10′, fall color variable

‘Bonfire’ – profusion of small red fruit early in the season, 12′ tall and wide, ‘Apollo’ should be used as its pollinator.

‘Harvest Red’ – deep red, large fruit, 10′ tall and 15′ wide, yellow fall color, Use ‘Raritan Chief’ to pollinate.

‘Raritan Chief’ – male clone flowers over a long period, 12′ tall

‘Sparkleberry’ – Award winning; medium size, abundant red fruit that persist until spring. Use ‘Apollo’ to pollinate 

Sources

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Winterberry – USDA Plant Fact Sheet

Winterberry – Missouri Botanical Garden

Winterberry – University of Connecticut Plant Database

Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance – Rutgers

Recommended for Wildlife by

Winter Interest in the Garden for You and the Local Wildlife by Jane Slade

Gardening for the Birds by George Adams

The Audubon Backyard Bird Watcher by Burton & Kress

HG120 Native Plants of Maryland

Songbirds – FS613

Landscaping to Attract Birds – Baltimore Bird Club

Bringing Nature Home by Tallamy

Photo Credits

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed

 

 

Additional information

Zones

Zone 5, Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8

Light

Part Sun, Shade, Sun

Soil

Clay, Loam, Moist, Wet

Flower Color

White

Flower Season

Summer

Fruit Season

Fall, Summer, Winter

Native

Carroll, Coast, Mountain, Piedmont

Wildlife Value

Beneficial Insects, Deer Resistant, Food for Birds

Notable Features

Cut Flowers, Erosion Control, Hedge, Humidity Tolerant, Rabbit Resistant, Rain Garden, Winter Interest

Local Availability

Widely Available

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