No berries on your plants this year? It may be down to the birds and the bees
Look in any garden centre or nursery at the moment and you will see an array of berries in all colours bright and beautiful, from the deep reds of the holly to the wonderful orange-berried cotoneasters.
Yet, many gardeners complain that their shrubs do not produce berries. This may be a problem of gender rather than any disease or weakness in the plant. If you want a sea of berries in your plot, here’s some essential advice.
Plant both male and female holly bushes
Most varieties of holly carry the male and female flowers on separate plants, so one of each is required for fertilisation to take place. That means you need to grow both male and female plants to pollinate each other.
The female has to have a male nearby to pollinate with. Be careful, though – some of the names are misleading, such as ‘Golden Queen’, which is a male, while ‘Golden King’ and ‘Indian Chief’ are both female.
Look out for self-fertile types
But there are varieties that are self-fertile, with male and female flowers, where one plant is therefore capable of producing berries. These include Ilex aquifolium ‘J C van Tol’, which produces bright red berries, and Ilex aquifolium ‘Pyramidalis’, which is similar, but with pale green leaves.
Some female cultivars of holly may produce a few berries even when they are isolated, but for a more reliable crop you’ll need to plant a male nearby.
If you’ve only room for one plant, opt for the hermaphrodite S. japonica Subsp. reevesiana, which has both male and female parts.
Trees and shrubs that bear ornamental fruit without needing two plants include Arbutus unedo, crataegus, malus, sorbus, pyracantha, cotoneaster, euonymus and berberis.
These are the plants that need partners
For a fabulous display of purple fruits, you need to grow a male variety near Gaultheria mucronata ‘Stag River’.
Other dioecious (those which produce a male and a female plant, requiring one of each to pollinate the fruits) include sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), Aucuba japonica and Viburnum davidii.
Another wonderful shrub that also needs both male and female plants to produce its vibrant red berries in autumn and winter is Skimmia japonica.
How can you tell a female from a male plant?
For a start, look at the label. Plants of different sexes will often be marked Female or Male next to the name of the plant. If you know the cultivar name, you can look up its sex in the RHS Plant Finder.
Leave the flowers alone
To get a profusion of berries and decorative fruits you must leave the flower to develop. For many green-fingered buffs who like their garden to be permanently neat and tidy, this may go against the grain. But, putting up with bedraggled flowers will reap rich rewards later on with fruits for the winter season.
Rose hip tip
Not all roses produce hips but most of them do and some are as spectacular as the flowers themselves. If you want rose hips then you need to leave faded flowers on your rose bushes.
Look out for R. moyesii and its various hybrids, which produce orange hips in the cooler months, while Rosa caudata has flagon-shaped hips and Rosa pimpinellifolia produces rich dark hips in chocolate brown through to black.
The fruit of the hawthorn, called haws, are also beautiful, turning dark red as they ripen – but if you trim a hawthorn hedge before it can flower, you will not have any fruit later on.
You may be lucky
If you only have room for one plant but you have neighbouring gardens with the same species, it may be that a male from a nearby garden will be close enough to pollinate a female in yours.
Keeping birds off your berries
While birds generally go for the red and orange berries on shrubs and trees, dark blue and black berries last longest in the winter garden.
If you want some deep, dark specimens that will see out the winter, look no further than Mahonia repens, Osmanthus decorus and Daphne pontica. Plant them at the front of the border, so that they won’t be lost in the shade.
The fruits of Malus ‘Red Sentinel’, Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ and Sorbus cashmiriana also tend not to be the birds’ first choice.
Remember that some berries and fruits, such as those of ivy or yew, are poisonous and hazardous to young children.
The Press Association
Latest posts by The Press Association (see all)
- 6 wine grapes you may never have heard of that are worth getting to know - November 16, 2018
- An unofficial ranking of all the food and drink in this year’s Christmas adverts - November 15, 2018
- 9 ways to stay fit and well in your 70s - November 15, 2018
- Sir Elton John takes centre stage in John Lewis Christmas advert - November 15, 2018
- World Diabetes Day: Could you name the 7 subtle signs of the illness? - November 14, 2018
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!