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Enjoy a winterberry delight

Wednesday, 4th December, 2019 5:18pm

By Margaret Griffin

When people see our winterberry hollies, they’re immediately intrigued. It’s no wonder as these native shrubs are stunningly beautiful at this festive time of the year.

When we think of holly, they think of a shrub with bright red berries and glossy evergreen foliage. Holly always has glossy evergreen leaves, right? Well, not always.

Ilex verticillata, commonly known as winterberry holly, is a shrub that loses its leaves each autumn. After the leaves have turned yellow and dropped, you are left with a breathtaking view of thousands of brightly coloured berries clinging to every stem. What a joy to have such colour in the middle of winter!

Winterberry holly is a slow-growing holly bush variety, native to North America. It gets its name from the Christmas-red berries that develop from fertilised flowers and stay on the bare bush stems much of the winter.

If you are growing winterberry holly or thinking of doing so, you’ll be happy to learn that the shrub is easy to grow. Winterberry care is also simple if you plant the bush in an appropriate area. When you want to know how to grow winterberry holly, remember that the shrub should be planted in acidic, moist soil in an area with some sun.

Although holly will grow in most soils, caring for winterberry holly shrubs is easiest when you plant them with ericaceous compost.

Winterberry holly isn't really grown for its flowers, though it does bloom. It has very small, inconspicuous white flowers, with male flowers and female flowers found in different individual plants. In autumn, female plants develop colourful berries where those tiny flowers bloomed. Its slender branches are draped with small but plentiful berries from base to tip.

The berries remain on the plant for several weeks to months through winter, as the birds tend not to be interested in them until they have softened considerably. Pruning is not an essential part of caring for winterberry holly shrubs.

One of the advantages winterberry hollies have over other shrubs grown for their berries is that birds will eat them, but only after they’ve been softened by repeated freezing and thawing. However, there’s always the possibility that hungry critters will make an unexpected meal of the fruit and it may disappear mid-winter!


For those who love to create festive arrangements for inside and outside, you should definitely grow winterberries in their garden. Nothing is as beautiful as the bare branches covered in berries in floral arrangements. Also, if some of your outdoor pots with evergreen shrubs look a bit dull, consider adding branches of winter berry to your pots. Stand the branches tall and proud through the pot. Then add a bit of sparkle with a battery operated light - instantly your pots have been uplifted and will welcome all your guests!

Festive tip

If you normally hang baskets at your front door or patio, add festive cheer at your front door with these real ivy topiary hanging sphere. They will bring a touch of elegance to your front door. I would add a string of battery lights too. Most battery lights now come with timers so they will automatically switch themselves off each night.

Enjoy complementary carolling on Saturday and Sunday with the wonderful Braveheart Choir on Saturday and Scrubs Choir from CUH on Sunday. Griffins Garden Centre stays open Monday-Friday until 7pm for the month of December. Visit

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