Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Shrubs with red berries come in handy this time of year for use in Holiday decorations and arrangements. Although the well-known American and Chinese hollies can't be grown in most of Vermont, other fine red-berried shrubs are suitable for this climate.
The winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is one. This shrub is native to Vermont and can reach heights of six to eight feet. It is extremely hardy and grows well in sun or shade, wet or dry soil. It is often found along stream banks or moist, wooded areas.
Like the other hollies to which it is related, the sexes are on separate plants. If you want berries, you'll need a female plant and a male plant (no berries) for pollination.
The hawthorn is another plant that has red berries in December. Several varieties do well in the state with the most popular being the cockspur thorn (Crataegus crus-galli), the English hawthorn (C. oxyacantha), and the Washington hawthorn (C. phaenopyrum).
The English hawthorn grows to about 15 feet tall while other hawthorn varieties may reach heights of 30 feet or more. All prefer a sunny location and are hardy for all but the coldest parts of Vermont. Hawthorns make nice specimen plants to stand alone or together in hedges. They are quite striking when covered with clusters of red berries.
The barberry (Berberis) is a low-growing shrub. Like the hawthorns, it's quite thorny but has smaller thorns and more of them. It makes a rather impenetrable hedge. The barberry has small clusters of bright red berries that are often still on the bush in March and April.
A shrub that grows even lower to the ground is the cotoneaster. Three varieties found in Vermont are the cranberry cotoneaster (C. apiculata), which grows to 12 to 18 inches high, and the early cotoneaster (C. adpressa praecox) and rock spray cotoneaster (C. horizontalis), both growing two feet high. All three make good ground or slope covers.
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