Southern Gentleman Winterberry HollyIlex verticillata 'Southern Gentleman'
View more from Holly Trees
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Probiotic Root Stimulant
Ilex verticillata 'Southern Gentleman'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Southern Gentleman Winterberry is a medium-sized deciduous shrub reaching around 6 feet tall and wide. It is an essential pollinizer for female Winterberry bushes (for example, the Berry Heavy® Winterberry). Without a pollinizer those plants will not carry berries, but with one, berries will be packed all along the stems, making a beautiful fall and winter display. This bush is also an attractive background plant for beds, and a native plant for natural and wild gardens.
The Southern Gentleman Winterberry grows well throughout the country, from zone 3 to zone 9, and it’s an excellent choice for colder zones. It grows in most garden soils, except for very dry ones, and it thrives in those difficult wet areas that can be hard to fill with suitable plants. It has no noticeable pests or diseases and needs no special care of pruning. For use as a pollinizer for female winterberry varieties, allow 1 bush for every 5 female bushes, and plant among them, or nearby.
Holly Bushes come in many shapes and sizes, but few people realize that the deciduous shrub with smooth light-green leaves, called the Winterberry, is also a holly. The bright red berries that decorate the bare branches in winter might be a clue, and they certainly do make a wonderful show in the garden. They can be cut for decoration in the house over the holiday season and used in wreaths and flower arrangements. As a shrub the Winterberry is an excellent background plant, or for planting by water, which it loves. This North American native plant is ideal for natural gardens, but decorative enough to be used anywhere in the garden. There is one issue, however, that causes frequent disappointment. After planting, it is common to hear the question, “Where are the berries?” The answer is that you cannot plant just the Winterberries that have berries. These bushes are female plants, and they need the pollen from a separate male plant to produce berries – it’s simple, ‘no male, no berries.’
To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we are offering the Southern Gentleman Winterberry, to do the honors, so to speak, for your ladies. You need just one plant for every five 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 Southern Gentleman 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 Southern Gentleman Winterberry is a deciduous, multi-stemmed evergreen tree, with a moderate growth rate, reaching 6 or even 8 feet tall, with a similar spread. The glossy, mid-green leaves are elliptical, between 1½ and 3½ inches long, and around 1 inch wide. The edges of the leaves have small, fine serrations – a long way from the thorny leaves of most evergreen hollies. Fall color is often golden yellow, but in some years the leaves may turn maroon red. Flowering takes place in late May and June, and the clusters of small flowers form at the base of the leaves, where they meet the stem. The flowers are small and greenish-white, but being in clusters they are quietly attractive, adding a note of interest to this bush. In female trees, such as the Berry Heavy® Holly (‘Spavy’) and other female varieties, their flowers, if pollinated, develop into clusters of red berries, which are very conspicuous and beautiful after the leaves have fallen.
This versatile shrub can be used as a background plant in shrub beds, and it is especially useful and attractive on banks by water, or on slopes and terracing. It is an excellent choice for natural gardening, and it can also be planted as an informal hedge or boundary. Female trees are excellent for cutting in winter and bringing inside for decoration, and they make attractive winter features in the garden.
The Southern Gentleman Winterberry is incredibly hardy and adaptable to different climates. It will grow and prosper in zone 3, and it grows all the way into zone 9, so it can be grown almost everywhere in the country.
Adaptable to different light conditions, this plant grows in full sun, partial shade with a few hours of sun a day, and even in light dappled full shade, although plants will not be as vigorous or bushy there. When grown in full sun in warmer areas the soil needs to be moderate moist to wet, to avoid drought-stress. The Southern Gentleman Winterberry will grow in most types of soil that are not too dry, and it prefers slightly acidic, heavier and wetter soils, with plenty of organic material in them. It is easily grown in most ordinary garden conditions, and also very useful for those wet, low-lying areas where other plants often fail.
No particular pruning is needed – simply remove any dead stems or twigs whenever you notice them. Old plants can be renovated by removing about one-third of the oldest branches at the base of the plant – new shoots will grow up to replace them and invigorate the bush. Pests and diseases are normally never a problem.
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 from south-eastern Canada all through the eastern states south to Georgia, and west to Minnesota and Tennessee. It is sometimes called coralberry or Canada holly, as well as ‘fever bush’ because Native Americans used it as a medicine. It grows in gullies and along streams, or in wetter areas of woodlands.
Originally named ‘Late Male’, the variety called ‘Southern Gentleman’ was selected in the second half of the last century by the late Bob Simpson, of Simpson Nursery Company, Vincennes, Indiana. The nursery specializes in winterberry, and it is a major source of varieties of these plants. Flowering when it does, this variety can pollinate many different varieties of female winterberry, particularly ones that flower later in the season. Experienced gardeners confirm that it pollinates the variety ‘Spavy’ (Berry Heavy®) well.
Winterberry are great shrubs for their berries, and for natural gardens and damp places. Many nurseries forget to offer male trees, but without one you will rarely see a significant number of berries on your bushes. Make sure you add this tree to your order of female trees – but we have trouble keeping them in stock, so order your Southern Gentleman Winterberry now, while they are still available.