One of the prettiest holly species of them all.

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Holly is a classic winter plant for Southern gardens. That’s thanks to its glossy, evergreen foliage; bright berries; and reliable garden interest in the depths of winter weather. One particular species of holly, from the genus Ilex, is fast becoming our favorite winter plant for Southern gardens. It’s a big claim, but this plant is a winner. It’s winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and not only is its favorite season in the name, it also provides an abundance of brightly colored berries.

About Winterberry

The Grumpy Gardener calls this plant “Winter’s prettiest holly,” and we have to agree. Winterberry is a deciduous shrub that’s native to the Eastern United States. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, “Unlike most hollies, this one thrives in boggy soils, but it will succeed in any moist, acid, organic soil.” They grow from 6 to 10 feet tall and wide and have dark green foliage that turns yellow in autumn. In winter, their branches are absent of green foliage, and instead they’re covered in small, round, bright red berries. The female plants bear these berries, which ripen in fall and can last all winter long.

Popular Winterberry Selections

Selections to plant in the South include ‘Afterglow,’ which has orange-red berries; ‘Cacapon,’ which has glossy leaves; ‘Red Sprite,’ which has the largest berries of all of the dwarf winterberry selections; ‘Winter Gold,’ which has pink or golden berries; and ‘Winter Red,’ which is a popular selection for its bright red berries, which are heavily and profusely borne and last through February.

Other Deciduous Plants for Winter

According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, “Most Southerners prefer evergreens for their long season of color. Still, deciduous plants offer a special beauty, especially in gardens in the Upper South, where winters can be long. Peeling bark, contorted limbs, and winter fruit...” In this vein, other deciduous plants that provide winter interest for Southern gardens include: American beech, birch, black walnut, Chinese elm, coral-bark maple, corkscrew willow, crepe myrtle, heart’s-a-bursting, loropetalum, oakleaf hydrangea, persimmon, saucer magnolia, and winged euonymus.

For more plants and flowers for winter and the holiday season, check out our all-star lineup of seasonal favorites.

WATCH: 5 Critter-Proof Bulbs I’m Planting Now

What’s your favorite winter plant? In the dreary depths of the coldest season, what plants do you count on for bright garden color and abundant visual interest?

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