Propagate and Establish a Winterberry Clipping

What You'll Need
Sharp shears
Rooting medium
Soil pH test kit to check soil for best conditions
Garden spade and rake
Sand or gravel for soil drainage

Carol S.

The beautiful winterberry, ilex verticillata, adds color to your garden year round with red berries, and green deciduous leaves that turn gold in the autumn. As well, winterberry bushes are a source of food for many animals that overwinter in the harsh weather. Spread this elegant shrub around your landscape by propagating and establishing winterberry from clippings.

Step 1: Select the Best Location for Your Winterberry

Choose a spot that will allow pollination of the female cutting by male winterberry as this plant has its male and female reproductive agents on separate shrubs. It should have some wind exposure and can be in partial shade.

Step 2: Make the Cuttings from Your Winterberry

Trim winterberry branches 6 inches long and at least 1 inch in diameter from the holly bush, cutting above the branch junction with a main limb. Take cuttings from the female winterberry, the one that is forming berries. A healthy winterberry at least 1 year old is an excellent source for cuttings to propagate. Take the cuttings in the fall  just as the berries are forming, from green fresh wood. You can also take cuttings from winterberry in the winter while the plant is dormant.

Step 3: Prepare the Rooting Soil and Treat the Cutting Tips

Use a sterilized commercial soil, well mixed with vermiculite and coarse sand to promote drainage. Use a large container such as an orange crate to propagate 10 or more cuttings for a hedge. Angle-cut the rooting tips of the winterberry cuttings so 1 inch of the inner cambium is exposed. Cover this tip in a rooting medium such as indole butyric acid, and bury the entire tip in the soil.

Step 4: Water the Soil and Keep It Moist to the Touch

Add water to saturate the container right after planting the cuttings. Keep it moist to the touch while the roots are growing.

Step 5: Transplant the Cuttings

Check the soil pH if you are planting the winterberry cuttings quite a distance from the original winterberry bush. Winterberry prefers acid soil, near 5.0 but can tolerate less acidity. Transplant cuttings in the spring when the soil has warmed, to reduce transplant shock. Dig a substantial hole 6 inches across to transplant each winterberry cutting. Place them down 2 inches below the soil surface. Rake the soil and pack it tightly around the crown to suppport the young plant. Provide a light mulch to retain moisture in the soil and discourage weed growth. Water well after first planting then allow the roots to spread outward and down in search of more water.

Step 6: Care and Maintenance of the Winterberry

Water regularly and maintain the soil moisture to keep the cuttings from drying out. They will begin to sprout new shoots within a few weeks of planting outdoors. Add more mulch in the fall to protect the roots against their first frost. Remember that winterberries are toxic to people and pets.