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Spotlight On: Winterberry Holly And Its Dazzling Winter Fruit

By January 12, 2021March 22nd, 2022Plant Spotlight
Spotlight On: Winterberry Holly And Its Dazzling Winter Fruit

What’s white, and white, and white all over? If you said “winter” then you haven’t yet experienced the joys of a four-season garden! Winter may certainly be the less colorful seasonal, but there’s no reason for it to be drab and monochromatic. There are so many plants, trees and shrubs that add texture, height, motion, and yes, color, to a winter landscape that it would be a shame to condemn winter to shades of gray.

And we’re not talking about standard evergreen trees, either. While we do love them, we want to show you other options for creating a beautiful winter space.

In this Spotlight series, we explore plantings that not only bring something special to the season, but have unique characteristics that you can enjoy year round. Today we’re adding a winter-long favorite to the repertoire – Winterberry Holly and its stunning profusion of bright fruit.

Sometimes known as Canada Holly, and even Fever Bush, once you see how lovely this plant is and how easy it is to care for and grow, you may wonder why you don’t have a garden full of them!

winterberryNot Your Average “Christmas” Holly

You may be wondering why we’re so excited about holly when pretty much everyone is familiar with its glossy leaves from Christmas wreaths, holiday arrangements and seasonally-themed d├ęcor.

Well, Winterberry Holly is not that holly! In fact, it’s a deciduous shrub and not even an evergreen, like the holly you’re probably used to. You may wonder why a shrub that loses all of its green is such a great catch, but once you’ve witnessed its explosion of brilliant red berries against a white, or otherwise monochromatic backdrop, you’ll understand. Without foliage to obstruct your view, the berries are even more vibrant and breathtaking.

You’ll have to look closely to see its tiny green flowers in spring, and its bright green summer leaves will turn to golden yellow in fall, but winter is when this beauty comes into its true glory.

Once the leaves drop off, you will be able to appreciate Winterberry’s fruit, along with its smooth and attractive bark, which runs from gray to black, and the visually stunning zigzag patterning of its branches.

In fact, you may start looking forward to winter and watching this beauty shed its outer coat to reveal the incredible color, textures and visual appeal of its heart and soul beneath.

winterberry holly branchCare & Maintenance

You’ll be pleased to know that Winterberry Holly is native to the northeast, which makes it an ideal addition to your New Jersey landscape. As a native shrub, it is pest- and disease-resistant, which makes your job as a gardener that much simpler.

In nature, this holly grows in swampy, marshy areas and wetlands. While it can grow in a variety of conditions in your home garden, it’s a great option for spaces with poor drainage and around retention basins. If planting in regular or drier soil, simply be sure to keep it well-watered – as much as an inch of water per week for this thirsty plant!

Winterberry will do well in full sun or part shade, can adapt to both light and heavy soil, but does prefer it acidic. Alkaline soil is not ideal but if you must, you can supplement with an acidic fertilizer. Otherwise, it doesn’t need fertilizing.

One of the most unique aspects of this holly’s nature is that only females produce berries, while males produce pollen. This will be important when choosing a shrub for your landscape. If you want to enjoy the dazzling red berries each winter, you will need both a male and a female plant within proximity.

And those little rascals can get around – one male shrub can pollinate six to ten females.

But wait there’s more! Winterberry varieties have two distinct bloom times, known as “early” and “late”. That’s only a matter of a few weeks, but if your male and female varieties don’t share the same bloom time, let’s just say that romance will literally never blossom.

So when selecting your hollies, be sure to include at least one male and one female, and be sure that they share compatible bloom times. Sure, you can enjoy these shrubs alone, but it’s not until they come together that you’ll be rewarded with stunning winter visions.

winterberry craftWhy We Love It

Winterberry Holly is one of the rare deciduous plants that still manages to bring four-seasons of interest to your landscape. It makes an excellent border, and can still serve as an effective privacy barrier even after its leaves have fallen.

Most notably, Winterberry is a favorite among birds and other wildlife, all of which will enjoy a nourishing winter snack thanks to a plethora of fruit. Attracting these critters to your garden any time of year is a treat, but it’s especially appreciated during winter when things may otherwise appear dull and barren.

Finally, you don’t need the shiny green leaves of the typical Christmas holly to indulge your passion for crafting. Winterberry’s berry-laden branches are just as prized for the beauty they bring to wreaths, floral arrangements, window boxes, and more.

With plants like this, nobody should have to suffer a dreary winter again. If you’d like to talk about creating your four-season landscape, contact us for a consultation. We’re here to help you explore the possibilities, from spring blooms to winter delight!

“Care & Maintenance” photo credit: David Stang