Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Planting Winterberry

By Amy Hannaford ; Updated September 21, 2017

Also known as Ilex verticillata, winterberry is a deciduous holly bush common in swampy areas, but easily grown in most home gardens. Although many consider holly to have shiny green leaves, winterberry plants drop their leaves after turning yellow in the fal,l leaving bare branches with bursts of bright red berries that last through mid-winter. Winterberry can range in height from 3 to 15 feet and adds a delicious splash of color to an otherwise drab winter landscape.

Choose a location that receives full sun throughout the day with possible partial shade in the afternoons. Try to plant winterberry to allow for a nice backdrop to display the colorful red berries, such as in front of evergreen trees, a fence or front porch.

Amend your garden soil as soon as it is workable after the last frost in early spring. Winterberry likes sandy soil that drains well. Till the planting area to loosen the soil and dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and only as deep as height of the root ball. Add about 2 inches of sand to the bottom of the hole.

Place your winterberry plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the ground's surface. Fill in with soil and tamp down gently. Plant a male along with a female for pollination. You can plant 10 female plants to one male plant for successful pollination. Plants should be marked as "male" or "female" on the tag or pot. Plant your shrubs two to three feet apart.

Water your winterberry well after planting. The shrub needs about an inch of water weekly. Watering once or twice a week should be sufficient.

Add a 2-inch layer of mulching material around the plants. This holds in water and controls weeds. Although not necessary to fertilize, you can use a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 each spring.


Things You Will Need

  • Winterberry plants
  • Sand
  • Balanced fertilizer
  • Mulch

About the Author


Amy Hannaford teaches childbirth education classes and a healthy pregnancy series in Southern Oregon. Hannaford holds an Associate of Arts degree, a certificate in medical assisting, and has been a childbirth educator and birth doula for 20 years. She has been writing articles for Demand Media since 2008.