Each month we will focus on a must-have plant that we recommend to our readers.
This month, we are loving the Winterberry Holly!
Ilex verticillata is also known as black alder, false alder, fever bush, coralberry, Canada holly, and winterberry holly.
It is native to eastern North America and in the wild, you will find it growing happily in wetlands areas. If you have a wet area where not much else will grow, this could be a great option. It can also grow in average soils.
Winterberry holly can grow anywhere from 3 feet to 15 feet tall, and the width varies widely as well. It is easy to grow, with few disease or insect issues. Like most hollies, Ilex verticillata is dioecious, which means that each individual plant is either a male or female, and it takes both to produce fruit. In the case of the winterberry, one male plant within 40 feet can pollinate up to six females. Each one grows tiny white flowers that aren’t much to look at, but in autumn, the female’s flowers turn into bright red berries and the leaves will turn yellow.
Unlike most hollies, the winterberry holly is deciduous, so once the leaves fall you are left with the beautiful berries looking stunning against the drab winter landscape. The berries typically last through most of the winter, because the birds usually don’t eat them until they have softened. Winterberry hollies in full sun will produce the most berries, but it can be grown in partial shade as well.
There are numerous varieties carried by garden centers, each with different mature sizes, and they can tell you whether each plant is a male or female. There is even a variety with yellow berries.
The winterberry holly will attract birds to your garden, because the berries are a food source for more than 48 bird species, as well as for small mammals. Native Americans used the berries for medicinal purposes. The berries are, however, mildly toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and humans. Many people cut the stems of winterberry this month for use in floral arrangements and wreathes.