Why did the berries fall of my winterberry?

maureeninmd(z6 MD)September 16, 2011

I have an ilex verticillata "Sparkleberry" which seems very healthy except that its berries fall off before maturing. I have a pollinator for it (southern gentleman, I think), it blooms, and berries form. But then sometime in August the small green berries disappear. I do not see them on the ground, so maybe something ate them? (The grasshoppers are really bad this year).

This happened last year, I am thought maybe drought was to blame, so I gave it extra water during our dry July.

It's very disappointing. Thanks for any ideas.


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if fruit formed.. pollination occurred .... one would suspect ...

if you dont find them on the ground.. and you search reliably [rather than once a summer] .... then one would suspect vermin 'using' them for what they are.. food ...

were they properly watered during any prolonged drought???


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:32AM
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maureeninmd(z6 MD)

Ken - I usually don't water any established shrubs at all unless they are reblooming roses. I did water this shrub once during a very dry month. I can't imagine a critter that would eat these berries, just seems odd. I suppose it just needs more water, of course it's far from the hose!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 10:06PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i presumed it was a newer shrub ...

i agree.. that well-established shrubs do not get water ...

but recent planting will need such for a year or two ...


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:45AM
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restorephoto(5 (central Indiana))

Very strange, Maureen. Do ALL of the berries disappear? Are there perhaps kids in the neighborhood who'd pick the berries?

I have a similar problem, but my 'Red Sprite' fruit ripens before disappearing. So I at least get to see the ripened fruit.

In my case, however, I know exactly what is happening. The Robins and/or Cedar Waxwings take them! And they do so long before winter arrives. It happens every year in October or early November. It takes only 2-3 days for the birds to strip the shrubs.

I planted these shrubs for the showy winter effect. In that respect, they've been a big disappointment.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 8:17PM
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maureeninmd(z6 MD)

restorephoto - I think there's three or four berries on the thing. It is such a nothing shrub otherwise so this is disappointing. I am going to try to give it lots of water next year and see if that'll help.

At least you got to feed the birds. Cedar waxwings are pretty neat but they do look like a gang of masked thieves.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 10:06AM
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blue23rose(6b IN)

Oh gosh. I bought two "Winter Red" Winterberries this summer and a "Southern Gentleman" polinator. I don't see anything looking like a berry yet and had hoped that they would still form. Since I'm very new to any kind of ornamental 'berry' type shrub, I wasn't sure what to expect. It will be disappointing if they don't do something this winter.

Hate the expense of trial and error, but a lot of my plants are just that. Great successes and a few disappoints. I'm not going to give up on my winterberries just yet:) I'll give them a couple of years to adjust.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 2:00PM
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I would guess that the missing fruit is a water issue. Around here winterberries are a native wetland shrub. They will grow fine in ordinary garden soil, but I can't imagine that they would be happy with getting too dry. Mulching the soil well to keep the soil moisture even may help also. To see if the fruits are aborting and dropping or being eaten, you could spread a sheet under shrub next summer once the berries start forming to see what drops.

Restorephoto - If you want to keep your winterberry fruit for longer, you can cover your shrubs during fall migration season with bird netting. I guess it depends on whether you value feeding the birds or having the berries more. Small crabapples might be a good substitute for the winterberries since they tend to get eaten in the spring and so are on the shrubs all winter. They won't be as bright by then, but it's fun watching the early spring migrants filling the crabapple trees to eat the fruit as soon as it thaws.

Vickie - Most often newly planted shrubs won't flower or fruit for a few years as they need to grow roots and then develop some size. I don't usually give up on a woody plant for 5 years or so unless there is a disease or insect problem. Even then, the fruit will be limited the first few years it produces.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 9:53AM
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restorephoto(5 (central Indiana))

A follow-up to my earlier comment....

My Red Sprite didn't have a lot of fruit this year. Yesterday, the berries were stripped from the bushes by a small flock of robins. The leaves hadn't even all dropped yet.

I had planted the Red Sprite many years ago primarily for winter effect. It's never going to happen. Oh, well.

Earlier in the week, the robins stripped the C. florida berries from the three trees we have. It doesn't take long!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 12:12PM
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