Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)


By: Dan Petters

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) is native to the eastern and generally northern half of the US, ending its range in the eastern parts of Minnesota. It is a dense, medium sized shrub, growing and spreading from 3 to 12 feet tall and wide. It is tolerant of wet and acidic sites, often found growing along streams, swamps, and in other low-lying wet areas. It can do well from full sun to part shade. Winterberry has glossy dark-green foliage in the summer, with beautiful, bright red berries that are persistent through the winter and into the early spring (giving it its common name). They provide significant winter forage for birds and small mammals, and excellent ornamental interest. In the spring, its numerous, small white flowers are favored by bees. 

Winterberry Holly Form
Winterberry Holly Foliage

Winterberry holly is usually dioecious (separate male and female plants), so the presence of a male plant is necessary for the female plants to grow the characteristic red berries. The species has been popular for a while, and many cultivars are available in the nursery trade. Cultivars are usually smaller and more compact, and are usually less beneficial to pollinators and wildlife.

Winter berries in snow


Common winterberry. The Morton Arboretum. Accessed December 2, 2019.

Ilex verticillata. Minnesota Wildflowers. Accessed December 2, 2019.

Ilex verticillata. Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed December 2, 2019.


Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Richard Webb,

Rob Routledge, Sault College,