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Ilex verticillata

1 - 2 ft height at sale, bare root

Native to Vermont

Sourced from MI


Northern Holly. Green lead. No berry guaranteed.

  • Description

    Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous shrub that is native to the eastern U.S. It is a great addition to the landscape because it produces bright red berries that persist through the entire winter and into spring. These shrubs are dioecious, which means that they have specific genders, either male or female. The right male variety must be located near a female plant to ensure the female plant is pollinated to produce berries.

    Winterberry holly leaves are dark green and elliptical, about two to three inches long. Greenish-white flowers appear on female plants in spring, which, if properly pollinated by a male plant, produce a dense crop of bright red berries in the fall. A slow-growing shrub with a rounded upright growth habit, winterberry typically grows 3 to 15 feet tall and readily suckers and spreads to form large thickets. It is generally planted in late summer to early fall, though spring planting is usually successful, as well. Winterberry holly is often associated with the Christmas holiday season and their berry-laden stems are used to add color to evergreen arrangements.

    Winterberry holly is toxic to people, dogs, cats, and horses.


    Common Name Winterberry, winter hollyberry, hollyberry
    Botanical Name llex verticillata
    Family Aquifoliaceae
    Plant Type Deciduous shrub
    Mature Size 3-15 ft. tall, 3–15 ft. wide (depends on variety)
    Sun Exposure Full, partial
    Soil Type Moist, well-drained
    Soil pH Acidic (5.5 to 6.5)
    Bloom Time June
    Flower Color Greenish-white
    Hardiness Zones 3–9 (USDA)
    Native Area North America
    Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to dogs and cats


    Unlike other familiar holly shrubs, winterberry holly is a deciduous shrub rather than an evergreen. Although one might view this as a drawback, it proves to be a beneficial trait because it allows the exciting display of red berries to be very visible during the winter months. All the attention is drawn to the plant's fruit without foliage to obstruct the view. Not only do the bright berries add color to winter landscapes, they also lure in birds that love to feed on the prolific red berries.

    In nature, winterberry holly shrubs grow naturally in wetland areas, which makes them ideal for routinely moist or poorly drained areas of a home landscape where little else will grow. However, they'll also grow in a variety of conditions, if they receive enough moisture. Winterberry is generally pest- and disease-resistant but can be susceptible to leaf spots and powdery mildew, which are rarely serious.

    Winterberry holly is a dioecious plant, which means that plants are gender specific, either male or female. Because only fertilized female plants will produce a wonderful display of berries, at least one male winterberry plant must be planted within 40 to 50 feet of a female for cross-pollination to occur. Generally, a single male shrub can pollinate six to ten female shrubs. When purchasing a winterberry holly, it is key that the male plant blooms at the same time as the female. Most quality garden centers include the gender on the plant tag so that you purchase the right pairs of plants4.


    Winterberry holly will do well planted in a location with full sun to partial shade. To ensure ample flowering and fruiting, plant the shrub where it receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day.


    This plant adapts to both light and heavy soils but performs best in acidic loam with a good level of organic material. It does poorly in neutral to alkaline soil, which can cause fatal chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves). Feeding it with a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants can help modify soil pH levels if a soil test reveals soil that is neutral or too alkaline.


    Winterberry prefers fairly wet conditions. Do not plant it in dry soil or a dry climate unless you are willing to water frequently. This plant will require at least one inch of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation.

    Temperature and Humidity

    Winterberry has a good tolerance for all temperature and humidity conditions across its hardiness range, though it does not do well in conditions of prolonged dryness.


    Winterberry holly usually doesn't require feeding unless growth is very slow. Where needed, 1/2 cup of balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer applied each spring usually is sufficient. Feeding with a fertilizer desi