How to Plant & Grow Winterberry Bushes


There is nothing that brightens up the dismal winter picture more than a winterberry (Llex verticillate) shrub, which is also known as a North American holly. This is because snow blankets the ground, and dark clouds hang in the sky. Pictures of its vivid red berries, captured in photographs and art, are images that are immediately associated with the winter holiday season. According to the University of Vermont Extension, after the season’s drab green foliage has fallen off in October and the berries have appeared, they provide a joyful background for the season. The strong shrub, which can survive in USDA zones 3 through 9, not only offers a safe haven for birds to raise their young but also offers food and shelter for other species throughout the harsh winter months.


If you want to have successful cross-pollination of your winterberry plants, you need to make sure that the flowering periods of both the male and female winterberry bushes that you buy are the same. It is important to note that the North American type of holly often has waxy leaves, whilst the British form typically has dull green foliage.

Planting the Winterberry Bush

The winterberry is a plant that is indigenous to the eastern boundaries of North America and Canada. It is most successful in the wild in areas that border damp thickets and marshes. You may recreate that habitat by planting your winterberry plants in close proximity to a pond or any other source of water. In landscape settings, the size of the shrub may vary from three to twelve feet in height, and in order for it to bear fruit, it has to be placed beside both male and female plants. Since only the female bush yields fruit, according to the Piedmont Master Gardeners, planting one male shrub among three female bushes should be adequate.

Plant in the early fall to allow the roots enough time to establish themselves before the onset of winter, and choose a position that gets full light for the best results in terms of fruit production. Before planting, thoroughly wet the soil, and then continue to water the plants even after they have been planted. However, be sure that the roots do not get soaked. The plant does well in soil with a pH between 3.8 and 6, but it cannot survive in an alkaline environment and would die if grown there.

Propagating Winterberry Shrubs

As they are actively developing from the beginning of spring through the summer months, cuttings taken from the winterberry shrub are suitable for use in plant multiplication. This deciduous plant can only accomplish cross-pollination if its male and female branches are severed simultaneously. By gently bending the cuttings, you may determine whether or not they are becoming dry and ensure that they are still malleable. It is recommended by Den Garden that cuttings be taken between 6 and 8 inches long and that just the tops of the branch be used since these parts quickly produce roots.

Take the cuttings and remove the leaves. Then, in order to stimulate growth, dip the bottom ends of the cuttings into a root hormone. After giving the cuttings a little nudge through the potting mix soil, relocate the container to a brightly lit area of the garden. It will take the cuttings anywhere from 30 to 90 days to start growing roots. To determine whether or not the cutting has taken root, gently twist it and check for resistance. If it puts up even a little bit of resistance, it indicates that the roots have taken hold. After the formation of the roots, the plant will produce leaves, and the next year it will bloom.

Growing and Maintaining Winterberry Plants

In the event that the winterberry plant begins to spread uncontrollably, Better Homes and Gardens suggests doing some trimming in the late spring in order to shape the bush into a groomed hedge. Bear in mind that the berries develop on the older wood of the plant, and that heavy trimming may reduce the amount of berries produced. A cutting that has just been planted will need watering until it becomes established, but an established winterberry bush will not require watering unless there is a lengthy drought.

If you are transplanting your cuttings to an area that will be their permanent home, the soil should be fertilised with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10. The end of summer and the beginning of October are the finest periods to transplant. Make it a point to position male and female winterberry plants so that they are no more than a few feet apart from one another. According to Gardeners Path, you should put the root ball into a hole that is the same depth and as broad as the root ball itself. Both the backfill and the water. Because it is not tolerant of drought, the bush need an adequate amount of water in order to bear fruit. The application of a layer of mulch may assist with the retention of water.