Red Sprite Holly (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’)

Red Sprite Holly

The brilliant little Red Sprite Holly, also known as Winterberry, (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’) and sometimes listed as Ilex verticillata ‘Nana’ RED SPRITE, Winterberry is a compact ornamental deciduous Holly bush. Hollies are the queens of the fruiting shrub world when ranked for ornamental value, and your Red Sprite is no exception. Featuring bee and pollinator-friendly white flowers in spring, but is usually hidden by the lush, compact, shiny green foliage when it emerges.

Red Sprite Holly is a dense, compact plant that produces multitudes of bright red, half-inch fruit that persists throughout the winter. A wonderful dwarf shrub, Red Sprite works in a wide range of climates around the states throughout USDA growing zones 4 to 9. Extremely attractive in the landscape, your Red Sprite Holly’s lovely bright green foliage is sure to please!

These red-fruited, Winterberry Holly grow in an upright rounded habit. Birds and admirers will be flocking to the bright, shiny red berries that will be smothering this plant, but it’s rarely bothered by pests and seldom severely damaged by deer.

Some yellow or bronzy fall color may occur before the leaves drop exposing the wildly abundant red berry display! Once this deciduous Holly leaves fall in the autumn, you’ll be treated to the amazing bright red berries throughout the fall and winter. The fruiting branches on the bare stems are great for decoration in the garden or in the house!

Planting and Application:

Excellent as a hedge and foundation planting, these add year-round curb appeal. The berries alone in winter make Red Sprite a wonderful specimen among your winter landscape shrubs and perennial gardens! Plant a few in a naturalized area of your landscape or perhaps one at the border of a perennial bed where the winter color can pick up where the bright summer flowers left off.

Their tolerance for soggy soils makes them wonderful for along streams and water features. Plant in low areas, moist wooded edges and where the gutters drain! Plant around Rain gardens and that soggy area by the HVAC unit while hiding these more utilitarian areas of your property!

They are extensively used for decoration and cut flower bouquets around the winter holidays! When the leaves drop off your Red Sprite in late fall to expose the beautiful red berries, you’ll be amazed at how decorative your plant is against the winter landscape!

  • Bright Green Deciduous Foliage
  • White Spring Flowers for Pollinators
  • Female Shrub – Bright Red Berries if a Male is Nearby
  • Red Berries Persist Through Winter – Birds Love Them!
  • High Ornamental Compact Dwarf Version
  • Floral Arrangements & Winter Décor
  • Great Low Hedges, Winter Interest & Specimen Hedges

Tips For Care

Loving the full sun and even some part shade, these are adaptable to most, moist soils and even acidic or soggy soil. Red Sprite thrives in its native soggy swamps of Northeastern USA, so these naturally prefer wet soil but are adaptable to other conditions. Red Sprite matures in that 3-5 foot height and spread – the larger of this range occurs if the plant is grown in lower pH. You will find the plant very slow growing if the pH is too high (alkaline). Lightly prune after flowering if needed, or strategically harvest a few longer branches to cut for holiday decor.

You’ll need both male and female plants to produce fruits for your Red Sprite. Red Sprite requires Ilex ‘Jim Dandy’ or Ilex ‘Apollo’ for pollination and berry production, so keep that in mind when acquiring a Red Sprite. One Jim Dandy male Holly or an Apollo Holly will pollinate up to 9 or 10 Red Sprites, however without a male pollinator, you may not see any fruit set.

  • Very Adaptable & Loves Full Sun
  • Moderate to Moist, Well-Drained Soil
  • Prune After Flowering If Needed
  • Use Jim Dandy or Apollo as Male Pollinators
  • Seldom Damaged by Deer

All in all, Red Sprite Holly is an outstanding choice for your yard for all-season interest and backyard songbirds! No wonder this is the winner of the Cary Award for landscape plants!

Red Sprite Holly (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’) Details

Common name Red Sprite Holly
Botanical name Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'
Plant type Deciduous
Hardiness zone 4-9
Growth rate Medium
Height 3 - 5 ft.
Width 3 - 5 ft.
Sunlight Full Sun
Moisture Low Once Established
Soil condition Widely Adaptable
Pollinator-friendly Yes
Pruning time Early Spring
Flower color White