Winterberry Holly ‘Red Sprite’

Ilex verticillata, commonly known as Winterberry Holly, is one of Carroll Gardens’ most popular shrubs. Native to North America, Ilex verticillata is a deciduous shrub that loses it’s shiny deep green leaves each winter, right after they turn orange and then yellow. The female varieties, when pollinated by a male, produce gorgeous red fruit that will remain on the branches long after the leaves have fallen, well into winter (unless eaten by birds). This week we are featuring the most compact Ilex verticillata – ‘Red Sprite,’ maturing at about half the size of other winterberry hollies.

‘Red Sprite’ is a neat compact rounded shrub that matures to an average height and width of only 3-4 feet – ideal for foundation planting or in the smaller garden. This female variety produces unusually large red berries, reaching close to 1/2 inch in diameter. Like all winterberry hollies, the stems can also be cut and kept in a vase with no water for months.

In order to set fruit, ‘Red Sprite’ needs a male Ilex verticillata. We recommend ‘Apollo’ because it blooms as the same time as ‘Red Sprite.’ One male is sufficient to pollinate 4 females. Apollo will grow somewhat faster and taller than ‘Red Sprite’. If necessary, it can be cut back in spring for consistency with ‘Red Sprite.’

Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ will thrive in full sun, but will also tolerate partial shade. ‘Red Sprite’ prefers a slightly acid soil that is moist, but does just fine in normally moist soil. For best results pruning should be done in early spring just before the new growth begins.

Plant in spring to early fall.

Prefers full sun to part shade.

Plant 3-4 feet apart.

Water regularly until established.

Fertilize with Holly-Tone in the spring and fall.