The Q&A Archives: Winterberry

Question: My winterberry has outgrown the support that it is growing on. Can I prune it back in order to put a taller support up for it? If so how far back should I prune it? Also, when I purchased it I wasn't told that I needed more than one plant. Is there a way to tell if I have a male or female plant before I by one to go with it?

Answer: You can safely prune back about one-third of the plant and it should rebound without problem. If possible, wait until spring to do your pruning. If you prune it now you will encourage new growth which will not have time to harden off before winter weather arrive. Any new growth that develops between now and then will die back over the winter months. Like most others in the holly genus, winterberry is dioecious (having separate male and female plants). Three years after planting, pistillate (female) flowers begin to emerge in small clusters plants and staminate (male)flowers develop on male plants with up to twelve flowers in a cluster. You can determine whether you have a male or a female by inspecting the flower clusters. Look for flowers in April through June. If the clusters are small, you have a female; if the flower clusters are large, you have a male plant. Or, clip off a few of the clusters and take them to your local garden center so you can compare them to the winterberry plants in the nursery.

Best wishes with your winterberry!

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