Jim Dandy™ Winterberry HollyIlex verticillata ‘Jim Dandy’
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Ilex verticillata ‘Jim Dandy’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Jim Dandy Winterberry is a compact deciduous bush growing no more than 5 feet tall and wide. It is a male tree that is needed as a pollinizer for female winterberry bushes that bloom earlier in the season. Without a tree like this these plants will produce no berries, but with one they will be covered in them, making a great display in fall and winter, and perfect for the holidays. It’s an attractive bush for background planting and gardens of native plants.
The Jim Dandy Winterberry grows across the whole country, and its especially valuable in cooler zones. It grows in all but very dry soils, thriving in difficult wet ground where many other plants won’t grow. It doesn’t normally suffer from pests or diseases and needs no special care or fancy pruning. When planting as a pollinizer, allow one bush for every 5 to 10 female bushes, planting nearby or among them.
There are few things more disappointing in life than spending years growing a plant that never does what it is supposed to. Top of the list for this problem are holly bushes. Tempted by the vision of bright red berries, we plant them, only to find they remain green bushes, and never produce a berry. The reason is simple, but not always simple to fix. Holly trees are a little unusual, because male flowers and female flowers grow on separate trees. This means that if you don’t have a male tree around, the flowers of your female, berry-carrying holly will not be fertilized, and no berries will form. This is true for almost every evergreen holly, and it is also true for the winterberry, which is a native holly that is deciduous, and grows well even in very cold parts of the country. The bare stems, covered with red berries, brighten the winter garden, and they can be cut for vases indoors – but only if you have a male tree. Without one – no berries, just bare winter twigs, what a disappointment.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we are offering the Jim Dandy Winterberry, to do the honors, so to speak, for your ladies. You need just one plant for every five to female bushes, and with a pollinizer such as this you will have bushes that are literally dripping with heavy crops of berries – which was why you planted them. As well, the Jim Dandy Winterberry is an attractive deciduous shrub in its own right, and it makes a valuable background plant for semi-shaded parts of the garden, bringing foliage variation and interesting greenish-white flowers from late May to late June.
The Jim Dandy Winterberry is a deciduous, bushy shrub, growing at a moderate pace to reach 5 feet tall and wide. It’s compact form is dense and twiggy, with lots of branches sprouting up from the base. The leaves don’t look much like holly leaves at all – their edges have a row of small, delicate serrations, and any resemblance ends there. They are glossy, though, oval, around 2 to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, with a mid-green color. Usually in fall they turn a clear golden yellow, but sometimes they will take on some maroon red tones as well. From spring to fall this shrub is a quiet, green presence in your beds. It begins to flower around the beginning of May, but you would be forgiven for missing it. Clusters of small, whitish-green blooms form along the stems as the base of each leaf, so they are mostly hidden by the foliage. They are interesting, but not showy. They are, though, why you are growing this plant. The timing of the flowering coincides with many female winterberry varieties, and pollination is needed for them to develop their berries.
The winterberry is native to North America, from Canada to Florida, and there are two ‘races’. One, slower-growing and found in the north, blooms early to allow time for the berries to mature. Another, faster growing and blooming later, is found further south. You need to match the male pollinator to the type of the female tree. The Jim Dandy Winterberry is a pollinator for northern forms, and early blooming female bushes. Use the Southern Gentleman Winterberry for later blooming varieties.
This easy-care shrub is great for background in beds. It thrives in wetter soils, so grow it along a stream or near a pond, and of course plant it among your female winterberries for optimal pollination. Being a native shrub it is also perfect for a garden of native plants.
The Jim Dandy Winterberry is surprisingly adaptable, growing well in zone 4 and even surviving in zone 3. It will grow all the way to zone 9, but of course you will probably be growing it in a more northern zone.
You can grow the Jim Dandy Winterberry in a wide range of light levels, from full sun, through partial shade, and even in light, dappled, full shade – although that will give some reduced vigor. It grows in most kinds of soil that are not too dry, and prefers acidic, heavy and wet soils, with plenty of organic material mixed in. It grows well in most ordinary garden conditions, but plants in full sun should be watered regularly.
The Jim Dandy Winterberry doesn’t need any special care – it is completely self-sustaining. If you want to tidy it, remove any dead stems or twigs when you see them in spring, and remove some of the oldest stems each year once your plant is about 5 years old. This encourages new stems to sprout from the base, rejuvenating the bush.
To use this plant as a pollinizer (a ‘pollinator’ is the insect that carries pollen from plant to plant), allow one bush for every 5 to 10 female trees. Plant within 200 feet of the females, and preferable alongside or among them.
The winterberry, Ilex verticillata, grows across a very wide range, all the way from eastern Canada through to Georgia and even Florida, and west to Minnesota and Tennessee. Some people call it ‘Canada holly’.
The variety called ‘Jim Dandy’ was first called ‘Dwarf Male’ or ‘Early Male’, before being finally given a formal name. It was selected by the late Bob Simpson, of Simpson Nursery Company, in Vincennes, Indiana. He was dedicated to winterberry, and his nursery is the main developer and grower of a wide variety of plants. Use it for all early-blooming varieties.
For a natural garden, damp places, and of course to grow those lovely stems of berries for the holiday season, you need a male pollinator for your female trees. Many nurseries don’t stock them, so they are always rare and hard to find. We know our stock will sell out fast, so order yours right away, while they are still available.