Yard & Garden Report


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Our Holly in North Dakota

The brilliant red berries and prickly green leaves of holly make it a popular choice for holiday decorations. It is too cold to grow an evergreen holly here in North Dakota, but we can grow winterberry.


The holidays are here!

It’s a wonderful time to decorate our homes with bright colors. The brilliant red berries and prickly green leaves of holly make it a popular choice for wreaths and bouquets.

It’s too cold in North Dakota to grow a traditional evergreen holly, but we can grow winterberry. This holly will shed its leaves in fall, revealing bright berries in shades of red and orange. These fruits add a wonderful burst of color in winter, especially in a snowy white landscape.

Growing holly requires special care. First, there are male and female holly bushes. Only female bushes bear fruits, and they need a male bush within 50 feet for pollination. One male can pollinate approximately ten female shrubs. When you buy a female holly, a compatible male holly cultivar which blooms at the same time will be recommended. 

Next, winterberry likes acidic soil, which is rare here. We need to acidify the soil to fit its needs. Start with a soil test to see the current pH. If the pH is manageable, for example 7.5 or lower, there is hope. Add an 8-inch mound of peat moss on the site and the recommended amount of sulfur for your soil. Mix this into your soil. You will need to monitor the pH to keep it acidic and your holly healthy.  

Winter Red® is one of the finest cultivars. This female shrub has an abundant display of red fruits that persist through much of winter. The rounded shrub grows slowly, reaching up to 8 feet tall. Use ‘Southern Gentleman’ as the male.

Compact cultivars of winterberry are available. These grow about 4 feet tall and are easy to fit into a landscape. ‘Red Sprite’ is highly recommended for its large, persistent, bright red berries. Use ‘Jim Dandy’ as the male. Berry Poppins® is a recent release that looks promising. Mr. Poppins® is recommended as the male.

Written by , Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc. and Proven Winners. 

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