Tricks to Germinating Winterberry Seeds

red berries on a holly bush covered with frost

Getting winterberry seeds to grow can be tricky if you don’t know how to properly germinate them. Though a symbol of winter, the holly bush or Ilex verticillata can not live in cold or windy environments and grows best in temperate climates.

Getting Your Seeds

The best way to get seeds for your winterberry bush is by picking wild holly berries during the months of winter. There are many different types of winterberry bushes, so pick berries from the specimens that you enjoy viewing the most.

Carefully remove the fruit pulp that surrounds the seeds. Make sure to get a lot of seeds as you will need both a male and female holly bush in order to get berries of your own in the future. Do not eat the fruit or seeds as they could make you very sick.


After collecting and cleaning, you must stratify the seeds by burying them in a 2-inch layer of sand. Store them in a cool environment for at least a year. Though this process may seem long, it is necessary for winterberry seeds to germinate.


After the seeds have stratified for at least 12 months, you can plant them inside the following spring. Plant in pots in rows, leaving about 6 inches between each. Do not plant them deep in soil, but cover them loosely with acidic soil. During this first initial year of growth, it is important to regularly water the seeds and small plants to make sure that will fully germinate.


After the first full year, transplant seedlings in the early spring following their initial planting. Depending on your climate, you may want to transplant them into pots for further transplanting later, as young winterberry plants sometimes die after transplant. Either way, it is important that the soil they are transplanted into is acidic and rich in vitamins.

Final Destination

Let the holly remain in its initial transplanted pot or location for at least 2 years after the transplant. This will help the plant grow and become used to the environment around it, making it strong enough to endure the weather.

When they are almost fully grown, you can transplant them to their final destination, making sure that there is at least one male tree to every six or seven female trees for berry production.


Mulch your winterberry bushes with 1 inch of coffee grounds at least once a year, preferably in the fall. This will allow a slow release of minerals into the acidic soil in which your plants are planted.


If you want to cut back your holly bush to make it smaller or into a shape, the best time to do so would be in December. The cool air will be healthy for the cuts on your plant, and you may use the foliage as winter decorations.

By taking time to properly germinate and care for your holly seeds and bushes, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of these plants for years.