With Christmas less than two weeks away I was thinking what plants in the landscape really make the spirits bright. Winterberry or Ilex, is the hands down first to mind with its persistent red berries that hang on long after the fall leaf drop. Well at least they are persistent until the birds strip them clean during the mid-winter months when other sources of food are scarce. Looking out into the landscape to see the red berries of Ilex with a light coating of snow and a cardinal resting on the branches is a quintessential scene in Minnesota’s winter landscapes.
BOTANICAL NAME Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow’
COMMON NAME Winterberry
DESCRIPTION Female cultivar of winterberry. Slow growing, multi-stemmed shrub with glossy dark green leaves turn yellow-bronze in autumn. Pollinated flowers (‘Jim Dandy’ male pollinator) give to a profuse crop of orange-red berries in fall that persist into winter.
HEIGHT 5 feet
WIDTH 6 feet
ZONES 3 to 9
EXPOSURE Full Sun to Partial Shade
FLOWER COLOR White
BLOOM SEASON Spring
COMPANION PLANTS Geranium, Microbiota, Heuchera, Sporobolus heterolepis
GROWING AND MAINTENANCE TIPS Grow in average, well-drained soil. Follow regular watering schedule during first year to get established. Prune immediately after flowering to maintain size and shape.
NOTES Berries are a good food source for birds. ‘Afterglow’ was introduced in 1976 by Simpson Nursery. Foundations, hedges, and low moist spots