The Most Colorful Winter Plant

January 4th, 2022

Every gardener has a plant that puts a smile on their face when they see it. Maybe it’s a cheerful color, or a gorgeous flower, or even a memory from a garden you’ve known in the past. One plant that never fails to raise our spirits, even at a glance, is winterberry holly.

Its beauty peaks at a time of the year when we are yearning for some vibrant color. January can be pretty dull, especially if the grass is covered in snow or there aren’t many evergreens nearby. This dreary scene perfectly sets the stage for masses of closely bundled bright red berries.

To our great joy, this plant seems to show up in spades! It’s native to North America and pops up just about everywhere in the eastern United States. If you’ve been noticing a cheerful red blur as you speed down the highway lately, there’s a chance it was a large swath of winterberries.

They create these impressive thickets by suckering outward over time. Music to many gardeners’ ears! This type of habit is perfect for native, pollinator, woodland, and bird gardens. It has the very real benefit of fitting into the ecosystem and the bonus of giving a space the organic look we crave and try to recreate.

Although the red berries are their most well-known feature, winterberries serve a purpose all year round. In the springtime, a flush of pretty little white flowers offers food for pollinators. In summer, the nondescript, dense foliage provides shelter for birds and other wildlife. And of course, we’ve seen the visual and literal feast it puts out for winter and fall. All in all, it makes a great new garden friend, sure to put a smile on your face any time you see it.

Learn more about winterberries in the resources below.

Dig In

How to tell the difference between a male and female winterberry.

Take a deep dive into winterberry’s latin name, history, and growing requirements.

Gather branches from

your garden for an arrangement.

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Written by
Picture of Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.


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