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Winterberry Holly

Berries in the winter! What could be better? We could all use more interest in our winter landscapes, and this native holly is a good place to start. Here, losing leaves is a good thing – the better to admire the berries – and this is one of those rare cases where the leafless season is actually a big deal. Red (and sometimes orange or yellow) berries start ripening in fall and shine on in winter until the birds deem them aged enough to start consuming. Rest assured, though, that they prefer other foods first and this doesn’t happen quickly; it can even be a point of amusement to watch birds getting tipsy on berries that are becoming over-ripe. Cut branches, when kept out of water, can decorate your home from Thanksgiving ’till the New Year – just be sure to keep children and pets from eating them. In the garden, they stand out best when used in front of an evergreen backdrop or next to a walkway. They’re so showy, though, that wherever you put them, you won’t miss them.

Like other hollies, these plants are either male or female; females produce the berries and males are needed to pollinate them when the tiny flowers appear in the spring. Some males make better partners than others, though (the flowering times vary a little bit), so check the plant information we provide to pick the best match. One male is sufficient to pollinate several females, if you want a nice patch of berries; he also can be sited a little ways away if you’re tight on space, though close by will help the bees pollinate them best. If you’re planting a group of seed-grown females, the diversity means flowering time may vary a little bit, and in that case more than one type of male would be a good investment to cover your bases and assure a good berry set.

by Miri Talabac, Woody Plant Buyer

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. These look enticing! What garden conditions do they need? The spot I have in mind is shady, and, unless I’m really attentive to watering, can be dry – it’s close to a well-developed cherry tree.

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