'Red Sprite' pollinators ...

terratoma(7a)October 11, 2012

Hello to all. I'm trying to identify male pollinators for 'Red Sprite' winterberry. Have read that it needs to be a cultivar that blooms about the same time as 'Red Sprite' which, per the same sources, is early. These same sources list only three that fit the bill: 'Jim Dandy'; 'Apollo'; and, 'Skipjack'.

Has anyone had experience with "Red Sprite, these three pollinators or any other males that could be used successfully? Will appreciate any help.


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Despite what is on the signs at many garden centers, I believe all the male and female winterberries have bloom times that overlap each other. In other words any male winterberry will pollinate any female winterberry.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 2:34PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Not true. I have a neighbor that was given the wrong pollinator for Red Sprite by a local nursery, and in 5 years she has never had berries.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 6:24AM
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There are a couple reasons that could happen including mislabeled plants (2 males or 2 females) or too much shade.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 10:01PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)


You are just completely wrong about "any male winterberry will pollinate any female winterberry", and you shouldn't distribute such misinformed opinions on this public website to less knowledgeable participants.

Despite your opinion about signs at many garden centers, the timing of bloom of certain named selections of Ilex verticillata (as well as the bloom times of genetically dissimilar provenances of Winterberry Holly) is based on science and solid observations of many learned growers of this species, and is well-documented and published.

Do a Google search for Simpson Nursery, and study the bloom chart. You will find that there is quite a spread in the actual bloom times for selections like 'Early Male' (in which 'Jim Dandy' fits), 'Apollo', and 'Southern Gentleman'. The newer selections like 'Skipjack', 'Rhett Butler', and 'Johnny Come Lately' all fit within the grand scheme of bloom times.

I am growing all of these, as well as many of the female selections of Ilex verticillata. I can vouch for the varying of bloom times.

At your peril (meaning, the missing out on pollination of your hollies and lack of subsequent fruit) will you listen to the un- or misinformed statements of participants here who obviously do not have the proper experience to make these statements.

The male and female plants must have overlapping bloom times in order for the insects that visit the flowers and move the pollen to successfully perform the pollinating activity. It is NOT magic.

'Red Sprite' blooms with 'Jim Dandy', 'Early Male', 'Skipjack', and may overlap with 'Apollo'. I think terratoma can expect success with these combinations. 'Southern Gentleman' and 'Johnny Come Lately' will NOT be appropriate to pair with 'Red Sprite'.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 11:38PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

I've pulled out one of my old photos of the bloom chart to which I referred in my above rant.

Inspection of the bloom times on this chart will inform folks who want to plant various named selections of Winterberry Holly. It is easy to see that early blooming females selections like 'Red Sprite' really need an early blooming male selection - like 'Jim Dandy'- to maximize overlap of bloom time in order to allow for the insect activity to perform the required pollination.

I can't presume what winged_mammal's motivation is to make statements such as above. Sometimes people believe it is simply a sales tactic to say that you should pair this plant with that plant. I can assure you that, in this case, it is not a sales ploy to state categorically that matching appropriate male flowered Winterberry Holly selections with appropriate female flowered Winterberry Holly selections IS important, if you want as full a display of fruit as possible on your female plants.

If you don't want to believe me, go check out the Holly Society of America's website. Or, see this posting by a knowledgeable southern garden writer...


To expect only a couple of days of overlap - the most one might expect if a later blooming male like 'Southern Gentleman' were the suitor - to accomplish the necessary pollination, well, that's simply folly and will lead to the inevitable disappointment of few to no fruits for fall display.

Here is a link that might be useful: Holly Society of America home page

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 9:13PM
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You will notice from your above chart that Red Sprite has a bloom time that overlaps with all 4 males.

I have 3 Winter Red's in my yard that are pollinated by by male cuttings I collected from a swamp growing near me. Maybe I should name it, sell it to garden centers and market it as a pollinator companion for Winter Red.

There is a lot of misinformation in the plant nursery industry.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 11:06PM
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I'd suggest anyone really obsessing about it buy the male and females in the Spring when you can make sure they are blooming at the same time and ignore the signs, which vary from garden center to garden center. Many will copy from Dirr's book but not all.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 11:26PM
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Thanks to all for your spirited responses. Based on the data provided by viburnumvalley, it appears that the longest "overlapping bloom time" with regard to 'Red Sprite' is provided by 'Jim Dandy', with 'Ruritan Chief' a close second. As a result, I've located and planted a 'Jim Dandy' holly for pollinating my three 'Red Sprites'.

Just missed out on finding 'Winter Red' which (again), based on various sites, is a prolific berry producer. I'll look for it in the spring, along with 'Southern Gentleman', which would seem to be a near perfect marriage!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 12:13PM
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VV nice to have you back. Have been gone for a time myself. I still have the extensive post that you made on viburman pollinators and bloom times. You have no idea how many times I have referred to it at the nursery when there was a question of what went with another cultivar.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 6:03PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Hi, jaco42:

Forgive my foggy memory of the distant past - did you have a different GW name in the way-back days?

Thanks for your kind comments. Kevin and I still grow a lot of viburnums, and it seemed then (as it does now) that there still is a reluctance to accept some of this information as appropriate practice in the successful cultivation of these plants. I'm glad that you and others have found it useful, and that you have bountiful plants in your garden.

To winged_mammal:

As you might have gathered by now, I relish debate. I believe every gardener ought to be armed with the best information possible, provided by experience, research, etc. Gardening practices ought not be unduly colored by distaste for marketing, corporations, or some other arbitrary approach.

As I noted above - the greater coincidence of bloom time between the male and female flowered plants, the better chance that the gardener will have Winterberry Holly loaded down with fruit a la the great marketing photos distributed for these plants.

One can claim that a couple days at the end of the 'Red Sprite' bloom period which overlap with a couple days at the beginning of the 'Southern Gentleman' bloom period will be sufficient to provide the necessary pollination. I believe that claim would be absolutely wrong, and I think most members of the Holly Society of America (that have grown this species for longer than I've been alive) would confirm that.

Think about what that claim means. The chart above is compiled from a nursery growing these selections in their fields, in basically uniform conditions, over many years. There is likely no similar condition that will be met in most landscapes. Gardeners must fit these plants (male and female) into situations far different in soils, moisture, light intensity, aspect, and many more variables - in their own garden! The farther the likely bloom overlap is pushed to the margin, the less likely the plants will perform as successfully as expected. Mix in some other (albeit rare) climatic anomalies - such as spring 2012's early warm up and late freezes, which destroyed new growth extensions on almost all my Winterberry Holly plants - and performance can be even worse, or nil. The (likely fewer) flowers remaining viable on the early female at the end of its bloom cycle will need to be pollinated by insects visiting the (likely fewer) flowers just opening on the late male selection.

You list your growing area as zone 7. That is approximately the provenance of selections like 'Winter Red', so it is not surprising that male plants there would overlap in bloom time with that great plant. You didn't say: did you grow out cuttings from these "on spec" and accidentally found out that they bloomed with 'Winter Red', or did you select them because they had overlapping bloom time? You could also sow seed from 'Winter Red'. Any male progeny should have overlapping bloom time with 'Winter Red', and you could name every one of them, too.

I have never said - and I don't think anyone else has either - that one can only achieve pollination with named plants. That would be absurd. But provenance matters, every time. Northerly provenance/sourced plants (the early types) always will bloom before the southerly provenance/sourced plants (the late types) - no matter where they are grown. Nurserymen and plantsmen have planted, grown, observed, and evaluated the plants (sometimes for decades) that eventually became the named selections we know today. This effort pays off by consumers having confidence in tried/true high performing plants that are appropriately paired, instead of the relative happenstance and wide variability that would be the case with random seedling grown plants.

I can certainly agree that there are often mistakes in plant labeling and information supplied - from all kinds of sources (like these kinds of forums), not just garden centers or nurseries. That is no reason to make inaccurate claims about the science and practice of growing plants.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:08AM
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VV No your memory is just fine. At that time I was a very big lurker(is that a word?) and rarly posted a I was just starting with shrubs and didn't feel I had much to contribute. I did however try to read whatever I saw posted by you and Steve. Some of it as I said still rides in my truck for reference when i need it. I was just saying welcome back and I welcome your posts again.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 5:02AM
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Again, I do appreciate the responses.
Have a question regarding my just planted 'Jim Dandy' winterberry. While the 'Red Sprites' appear healthy with bunches of berries, the male pollinator (planted at the same time: about a week ago) has dropped all the leaves. The bark is not discolored and the branches are in good shape (green inside). They are located in a a well drained site; full sun; planted "high"; relatively fertile soil; no amendments were added to the soil; and, given the time of year, no fertilizing was done. (I'm really not trying to be so gabby; just want to provide as much information so responders will not have to make guesses about the situation.)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 10:45AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Thanks so much for the bloom time chart! I will keep that for help if I have flowering problems next year.

I have no berries on anything this year, which was partly for using a spring purchased male Southern Gentleman, in bloom, with no flowers on my fall planted Winterberry. The flowers just didn't couldn't to get pollinated, with female on a different seasonal schedule than the greenhouse male. Winterberry had PLENTY of fall berries at purchase, so it is a good female.

Then the early summer drought struck and lasted so long! The male got VERY dried out, within 2 days of last watering, so I had to dig him up from what is USUALLY swampy ground to put by the house and revive with daily watering over summer. He came back well, so got moved back out to the swampy place in Sept. I HOPE he makes it thru winter to be on the same time frame for spring pollination. These two are off in their own area, far from my other developing Winterberries. When they fill out (according to the label sizes) there is no more room for other bushes. The 2011, fall planted female never had any drought drying out problems just 6ft away from the male's location. He just needed more water than the dirt got this year. Hurray for fall planting root development!! I gave her a few drinks over summer heat, but she did darn well with little attention.

Can't afford to let them "tough it out" as Ken advises, when they cost so much. Little extra attention on first year of planting, seems to get a better start, so they can DEVELOP toughness. I don't baby shrubs much that next 2nd year, too much work for all the ones I have.

I also moved some Sprites, very small after 2yrs, not enough light and water I guess. Put them in another location with a 2nd Southern Gentleman of a larger size. This is a much wetter and sunnier location, and with Sept move, I am hoping they will get going next year with at least a couple berries on each. I do think I need to add a Jim Dandy to that group, since I will be moving a couple Sparkleberries out there too. They can be on the same light schedule for blooming together. With both male varieties happy in that location, ALL the female bushes should bloom to get pollinated at a correct time.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 5:37PM
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You could just do like me and get Southern Gentleman and Jim Dandy both. I plant them right next to female plants. after the berries are set, I cut the male plants back drastically.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:40PM
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I have 4 ‘Red Sprite’ and 1 ‘Jim Dandy’ as a pollinator. This arrangement works just fine, I get plenty of berries, though one kind begins to bloom a week earlier than another (don’t remember now which one is earlier - male or female), but eventually they get bloom cycles overlap for about a week which is enough for pollination.

I also grow ‘Winter Red’ paired with ‘Southern Gentleman which is also works fine.
And, at last, a year ago I acquired a female ‘Golden Verboom' with yellow berries… it is supposed to be pollinated only by a male ‘Golden Verboom' which I could not find…. But surprisingly, it set a good crop of yellow berries last year - not sure who did the job, Jim or Gentleman, since I planted it an equal distance from both in hope that at least one guy will do the job… and he did!

That’s my pride ‘Golden Verboom':

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:44PM
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Jealous of your Golden Verboom. So pretty!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 2:53PM
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