The one thing that I always thought would make winterberry a more interesting plant is better foliage. What the plant does have are vibrant red berries in fall and winter, so most of us forgive its unremarkable appearance during the other six months of the year. The cultivar ‘Sunsplash’, however, lets you have your cake and eat it, too. It’s beautiful not only when it’s fruiting but also during the rest of the year, when its bright gold, white, and green foliage shines brightly. Unlike many other variegated plants that just have coloring around the margins of their leaves, the foliage of ‘Sunsplash’, as its name implies, is literally splashed all over with color.
Noteworthy CharacteristicsOnce the plant is pollinated in spring, the green berries of late summer mature to their full size and begin their transformation. They eventually turn a brilliant orange-red and show off for as long as the birds will allow. Lucky for us, winged visitors tend to eat the fairly hard berries of ‘Sunsplash’ last, opting to eat softer fruits first. The leaves turn a yellowish bronze in autumn, which makes the berries even more prominent.
CareLike all winterberries, ‘Sunsplash’ needs a male plant nearby to pollinate it to produce fruit. I recommend planting the cultivar ‘Jim Dandy’ (Ilex verticillata ‘Jim Dandy’, Zones 3–9) in close proximity. You’ll only need one male to pollinate an entire grouping of ‘Sunsplash’, as long as there are some insect pollinators to assist. - Chip Gill is a landscape designer at Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. From Fine Gardening issue #147, Like it / love it
- Genus : Ilex
- Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8
- Bloom Time : Fall, Winter
- Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
- Maintenance : Low
- Growth Rate : Moderate
- Characteristics : Showy Foliage, Showy Fruit
- Plant Type : Shrubs