UT Gardens January Plant of the Month: Winterberry Holly

UT Gardens January Plant of the Month: Winterberry Holly

Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011 8:57 pm
By: Submitted by Jason Reeves

January is often one of the gloomiest months of the year but the winter garden can be brightened by the addition of holly. There are hundreds of species and cultivars of holly and many of them come into their glory with their berries during the winter months. Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) is at the top of the list. Unlike most hollies winterberry holly, along with possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) loses all foliage in the fall fully exposing the colorful berries.
Winterberry holly is native to swampy areas of the eastern half of North America, from Nova Scotia to Florida. In the landscape it will grow in a wide range of soil types and conditions but performs best in full sun and average to moist soil. Winterberry holly is seldom affected by insect or disease and is excellent for mass planting, and in shrub borders, and for water side plantings. The size varies according to cultivar, of which there are many. The following are some of the better selections:
Berry Heavy®  –  abundant bright red fruit produced on 6’ to 8’ tall plants
Berry Nice® – excellent bright red berries, pollinated by ‘Southern Gentleman’
‘Red Sprite’ – compact cultivar maturing to 3’ to 5’ high with abundant, large, bright red berries and lustrous dark green leaves.
‘Jim Dandy’  –male pollinator for Berry Heavy®, Berry Nice® ‘Red Sprite’
‘Southern Gentleman’ – male pollinator for ‘Sparkleberry’, ‘Winter Gold’ and Winter Red®
‘Winter Gold’ – matures to 7’ by 7’ with fruits a lovely salmon color
Winter Red®  – matures to 8’ by 8’ in 30 years, lustrous dark green leaves and produces a profusion of intense bright red berries that last throughout the winter. Michael Dirr says, “I have yet to witness any that rival Winter Red®.”

Hybrids between Ilex verticillata and I. serrata:

‘Apollo’ – male pollinator for ‘Red Sprite’, ‘Bonfire’ and ‘Sparkleberry’
‘Bonfire’ – masses of small red berries produced at a young age. Grows to 8’ by 8’.
‘Sparkleberry’ – an upright form that produces brilliant red fruit that persist though the winter. Matures to 12’ tall.

Jason Reeves is an Ornamental Horticulture Research Associate with the UT West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson. He creates the various seasonal horticultural displays, conducts research on herbaceous and woody ornamentals, and supports various educational programs. Hi is also a contributor to Fine Gardening magazine. The UT Gardens in Jackson and Knoxville are a program of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Their mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, collections, educational programs and research trials. The gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. See http://utgardens.tennessee.edu/ and http://westtennessee.tennessee.edu/ornamentals/ for more information.

Posted 1.3.11

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