If you want an attractive plant that adds color and texture to your landscape in the winter, the winterberry shrub, also known as the North American or winterberry holly, is a great choice.
Winterberry shrubs are in the same family as English holly -- the traditional Christmas holly with dark green foliage and vibrant red berries. Winterberry is deciduous and sheds its muted green leaves in the fall, leaving several burgundy berries on each branch and stem.
These attractive shrubs are found in eastern Canada and grow south of the Canadian provinces to Virginia and western regions of the U.S., particularly in Michigan. The plant grows well in swampy areas and woodlands and can reach up to 15 feet in height. If you want to grow wildberry to decorate your landscape, the plant can be trained to reach about 12 feet.
Winterberry is suitable for hardiness zones 3-9. The plant needs full sunlight and prefers acidic, wet soil. It's best to plan the shrubs near a stream or pond and be planted in dry soil and partial shade but won't spread much. The plants attract songbirds. Thrushes, catbirds, cedar waxwings, and red squirrels eat the berries of the plant. The winterberry shrub is disease resistant but will develop leaf spots without proper tending. Be sure to plant both female and male plants to ensure the shrubs produce fruit. Plant the winterberry close together, using one male plant for every three female plants. These shrubs look best near the end of summer, and the leaves and fruit last through most of the winter. During the summer, winterberry displays small, white flowers.
There are several winterberry cultivars, including Winter Red, which is ideal for cutting arrangments. Winter Red has medium-sized bright red berries and rich, green leaves that turn bronze in the fall. Winter Gold is an attractive choice as well and has pinkish orange berries. If you're using winterberry as a hedge, Red Stripe works well. The branches grow close together, and the plant grows up to five feet tall. The Afterglow cultivar is similar in height and has eye-catching orange-red berries.