Plant Encyclopedia

Wildfire™ Winterberry

Ilex verticillata

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Wildfire Winterberry with green and yellow foliage and red berries

Discover More Information On Wildfire™ Winterberry

Wildfire™ Winterberry is a female selection with dark green foliage and abundantly large, bright red fruit. Fall and early winter provides stems ideal for floral or seasonal displays. Its rounded habit creates a wonderful foundation plant, specimen, or hedge. A male companion is needed for pollination. Selected by Gordie Bailey and introduced by Bailey Nurseries.

Plant Attributes

The Wildfire™ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a versatile and attractive deciduous shrub native to North America. Belonging to the Aquifoliaceae family, this cultivar is known for its vibrant red berries and excellent cold-hardiness, making it a popular choice for gardens in colder climates or regions with harsh winters.

Wildfire™ Winterberry typically grows to a height of 8 to 10 feet, with a similar spread. It features dark green, elliptical leaves that measure approximately 2 to 3 inches in length. These leaves are adorned with fine serrations along the margins, giving the plant a delicate texture. In the fall, the foliage turns a lovely shade of yellow before dropping, revealing the plant's bare, multi-stemmed form.

One of the most striking attributes of the Wildfire™ Winterberry is its dense clusters of bright red berries, which persist throughout the winter months. These berries not only provide a stunning visual contrast against the bleak winter landscape, but also serve as an important food source for various bird species. It's worth noting that the berries are toxic to humans and pets, so caution should be taken when planting the shrub in areas frequented by children or animals.

The Wildfire™ Winterberry is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. To ensure berry production, it's necessary to plant a male pollinator, such as the Southern Gentleman Winterberry (Ilex verticillata 'Southern Gentleman'), in close proximity. The shrub produces small, inconspicuous white flowers in late spring or early summer, which eventually give way to the signature red berries.

This cultivar is adaptable to a range of soil types, including acidic, loamy, sandy, and clay soils. It thrives in moist, well-drained conditions and is particularly well-suited for planting in wetland areas or along stream banks. The Wildfire™ Winterberry prefers full sun to partial shade and has moderate tolerance to salt spray, making it suitable for coastal plantings as well.

With its vibrant red berries, exceptional cold hardiness, and versatility in various landscape settings, the Wildfire™ Winterberry is an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a pop of color and interest to their winter landscapes.

Landscape Use

The Wildfire™ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) offers a variety of landscaping uses due to its striking appearance, adaptability, and ability to thrive in diverse environments. Here are some common ways to incorporate this attractive shrub into your landscape design:

  1. Focal point: The vibrant red berries of the Wildfire™ Winterberry make it an eye-catching focal point in any garden or landscape, particularly during the winter months when color is often scarce. Plant it as a standalone specimen or in a small group to create a striking visual statement.
  2. Naturalized areas: This shrub is well-suited for naturalized settings, such as woodlands, meadows, or wildflower gardens, where it can blend seamlessly with native plant species while providing winter interest and habitat for local wildlife.
  3. Wetland and riparian plantings: Wildfire™ Winterberry's affinity for moist soils makes it an excellent choice for planting in wetland areas, along stream banks, or in rain gardens, where it can help to stabilize soil, filter runoff, and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
  4. Privacy screening and hedging: The dense, multi-stemmed growth habit of the Wildfire™ Winterberry allows it to function as an effective privacy screen or hedge when planted in a row. Its tolerance for partial shade means it can be planted under trees or in other areas where light is limited.
  5. Coastal landscapes: With moderate salt spray tolerance, this shrub can be used in coastal landscapes or seaside gardens, where it can provide color and interest while withstanding harsh conditions.
  6. Bird and wildlife gardens: The bright red berries of the Wildfire™ Winterberry are a valuable food source for a variety of bird species, making this shrub an ideal addition to bird and wildlife gardens where the goal is to attract and support local fauna.
  7. Mixed borders and foundation plantings: The Wildfire™ Winterberry's compact size and appealing form make it suitable for planting in mixed borders or as part of a foundation planting, where it can provide seasonal interest alongside other shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses.

By incorporating the Wildfire™ Winterberry into your landscape design, you can create a visually appealing and functional space that provides year-round interest, supports local wildlife, and thrives in a range of environmental conditions.

Planting & Care

Planting and caring for a Wildfire™ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) requires attention to a few essential factors to ensure the shrub thrives and produces its vibrant red berries. Here are some guidelines for planting and maintaining a healthy Wildfire™ Winterberry:

  1. Site selection: Choose a location with full sun to partial shade, ensuring the plant receives at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day. Keep in mind that the shrub will produce more berries in sunnier locations. The plant can tolerate a range of soil types, but it prefers moist, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil.
  2. Planting: Dig a hole that is roughly twice the width of the root ball and just as deep. Gently loosen the roots before placing the shrub in the hole. Fill the hole with soil, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Firmly press the soil around the roots and water thoroughly to remove any air pockets.
  3. Pollination: Since the Wildfire™ Winterberry is dioecious, you will need to plant a male pollinator nearby to ensure berry production. One male plant, such as the Southern Gentleman Winterberry (Ilex verticillata 'Southern Gentleman'), can typically pollinate up to five female plants. Plant the male pollinator within 50 feet of the female plants for optimal pollination.
  4. Watering: Wildfire™ Winterberry prefers consistently moist soil, so ensure the plant receives adequate water, especially during the establishment period and in times of drought. Water deeply and regularly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings.
  5. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the stem to avoid any issues with rot or pests.
  6. Pruning: Prune the Wildfire™ Winterberry in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches, and thin out any crowded areas to improve air circulation. You can also trim the plant to maintain its shape and size, but be aware that excessive pruning may reduce berry production.
  7. Fertilizing: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring, following the manufacturer's instructions for the appropriate application rate. Alternatively, you can use an organic fertilizer or compost to provide nutrients to the plant.
  8. Pest and disease control: The Wildfire™ Winterberry is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, keep an eye out for common issues like leaf spots, powdery mildew, or aphids, and treat accordingly with appropriate cultural or chemical methods if needed.

By following these planting and care guidelines, you can help ensure the health and beauty of your Wildfire™ Winterberry, providing your landscape with year-round interest and a valuable habitat for local wildlife.

Additional Information

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Wildfire™ Winterberry


Plant Features

  • Height: 8-10'
  • Width: 8-10'
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Heat Zone: 9
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Habit: Rounded
  • Flower Color: White
  • Foliage: Dark Green

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