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Selecting native plants

Carla Asked

I’ve been working hard to remove non-native and invasive plants from my Northern Kentucky farm. I plan to plant natives and return the forest and fields as closely as possible to the ecosystems they were meant to be. My problem is choosing the correct cultivars of native plants. For example, I’m removing Asian Burning Bushes and would like to plant native Winterberry bushes in their place. But there are so many cultivars of Winterberry. Which one is the native plant and how do I know? Thanks so much.

The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Carla: Wow! This sounds like a big project. Thank you for making a difference. Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a great choice to replace to replace burning bush. There are several cultivars of this deciduous holly, all of which are native to Eastern North America. These hollies range in size depending on cultivar selection. Mature size ranges from 4-10 feet tall with a similar width. Some cultivars are more common than others, but all are dioecious meaning that each plant produces only male or female flowers. They are hard to tell apart and only the females produce berries when a male of the same species is planted nearby. A male that flowers at the same time is needed to pollinate and set fruit. Select male and female cultivars and plant them near each other. One male will pollinate up to 5 females. Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’and ‘Red Sprite‘are good female options. Ilex verticillata ‘Southern Gentleman’ and ‘Jim Dandy’ are male pollinators. Winterberry holly are adaptable to most growing conditions but will flower and fruit best when grown in full to part sun. I hope this is helpful.

Angie Oakley

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