Winter Red Winterberry Holly

Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red'

Winter Red Winterberry Holly

Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red'


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Winter Red Winterberry is a deciduous holly bush native to North America, that grows just 6 or 8 feet tall and wide. It has oval green leaves without spines, on a twiggy bush with dense branching. All through winter it carries a very heavy crop of bright red berries, making a great display against snow. It can be grown in any garden, fitting well into woodland and natural gardens too. Cut branches for the holiday season, and brighten your winter with this easy plant.

  • Very heavy and persistent crop of bright red berries
  • Compact dense shrub for any part of the garden
  • Grows well in damp or wet soils
  • Very cold hardy to zone 3
  • Grow the Southern Gentleman Winterberry nearby for pollination

Full sun or partial shade suite the Winter Red Winterberry perfectly. It enjoys the shade along the edges of wooded areas, and grows in full sun in cooler zones. It prefers moist, acid soils, but will usually grow in most ordinary garden soils that aren’t too dry or alkaline. It is normally pest and disease free, and needs no special care or fancy trimming. Plant one male bush, like the Southern Gentleman Winterberry, with up to 10 of these trees, for the best berry crop.

Plant Hardiness Zones 3-9
Mature Width 6-8
Mature Height 6-8
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones 3-9

The winter months can be long, dark and colorless, with gray skies, black earth and white snow all there is to see. This is why it is so important to include plants with winter interest and color in your garden. In warm zones you can even have blooms, but in cooler areas that is out of the question. You can have, though, berries, but many are only showy in the early part of the winter, before dropping or being quickly taken by birds. This is why the winterberry is so valuable, especially in cold zones, with bright red berries on bare branches. For the heaviest crop of berries that last all through winter, no variety can top the Winter Red Winterberry. This is a holly bush that will grow in cold zones, although it doesn’t look like one – except for the berries – as the leaves drop during winter. That just makes the heavy crop of bright red berries even more conspicuous, and sparking against the snow they are such a beautiful sight it almost makes winter seem like the best season of the garden year.

Growing the Winter Red Winterberry

Size and Appearance

The Winter Red Winterberry is a deciduous shrub with a rounded form and many branches, growing steadily to 6 or 8 feet tall and wide. It has an abundance of slender stems, growing from strong branches that rise from the ground, making a dense bush. The oval leaves are only slightly leathery, and quite unlike other holly leaves. They are variable in size, between 3 and 5 inches long, and about 1½ inches wide. They are dark green, smooth, oval and without spines. In fall they turn clear yellow before dropping.

In spring, among the new leaves on older stems, you might catch a glimpse of the tiny white flowers that form in clusters. If pollinated they turn into tiny green berries, growing slowly through summer and turning red once fall arrives. They really jump into the picture once the leaves fall, and this variety is one of the very best available for producing an abundance of berries – a bumper crop of color. Branches can be cut for holiday decoration in wreaths or vases, and it means that even in cold zones you can have your own Christmas holly. This variety is remarkable for the persistence of its berries, even into spring.

All holly species have separate male and female trees, and a female tree like the Winter Red Winterberry needs some male company. Flowers of the winterberry open at different times in spring, and the best match for this bush is the Southern Gentleman Winterberry. You only need one male for up to 10 female bushes, so slip one in among a group planting, or nearby. Bees will do the pollination at no extra charge.

Using the Winter Red Winterberry in Your Garden

This bush is an excellent addition to any shrub bed, and it makes a good green backdrop in spring and summer, turning on the lights just as your other bushes are going to sleep. Plant it in groups in larger beds, or as a single plant among the evergreens around your home. Grow it along the edges of wooded areas, and it’s a natural for a natural garden. It grows well in wet ground, and looks very effective by a pond, stream or lake, right at the edge of the water.


This is one holly that takes cold easily, and the Winter Red Winterberry is happy even in zone 3, yet it grows well all across the country into zone 9, where some moist soil and partial shade are best.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Full sun or partial shade is what the Winter Red Winterberry needs. It enjoys the partial shade beneath deciduous trees, and it grows in shadier spots too, but it won’t flower or fruit well, so what is the point? Any moist soil, preferably acidic, is suitable, and it grows in wet areas, so it’s an ideal way to fill those difficult spots. It will grow well in ordinary garden soil too, but not in dry, sandy soils, or very alkaline soils.

Maintenance and Pruning

This easy plant is trouble free and rarely bothered by pests. Deer generally don’t take much interest, but some damage could be done. Besides keeping it moist, no care is needed, and you don’t even need to prune – it has a natural dense habit. After some years you can remove a few of the oldest branches close to the ground, in spring, to encourage new growth and keep it vigorous, but nothing fancy is needed.

History and Origin of the Winter Red Winterberry

The winterberry, Ilex verticillata, grows wild in North America, and it can be found anywhere from Newfoundland in Canada to Alabama, growing in swamps, damp woods, around ponds and along streams. It was once called ‘fever bush’, for its use by native Americans for medicine. All parts of the plant are mildly toxic.

The Simpson Nursery Company, of Vincennes, Indiana, is one of the oldest family nurseries still operating in the country. Founded in 1851, it was for a long time a fruit-tree nursery, but when Robert Simpson took over in 1968 he turned to ornamental plants, making winterberry one of his specialties in a program of breeding new varieties of garden plants. For 30 years he created improved varieties, as well as new crabapples and hawthorn trees. The variety he called ‘Winter Red’ was selected for its profuse and long-lasting berries – considered by many the very best for those important features.

Buying the Winter Red Winterberry at the Tree Center

It was fitting that in 1995 the Winter Red Winterberry received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal, because it became a tribute to ‘Bob’ Simpson’s in the last year of his life around plants. This is the most widely recommended of all the winterberry varieties, so order now and let its brightness guide you through the darkest days of winter.

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Winter Red Winterberry Holly

Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red'