How to Grow and Care for Wintergreen

The wintergreen shrub is accentuated with either gorgeous, white bell-shaped flowers or brilliant, pinkish-red berries, depending on the season.  Beautiful, fragrant wintergreen has evergreen foliage. This plant does well indoors, though it is typically used as ground cover. It’s the ideal addition to make your house cheery in the winter.

Wintergreen makes excellent ground cover for shady areas such as woodland gardens, rock gardens, foundations or native plant areas. Plants are an interesting complement to other acid-loving shrubs such as azaleas, rhododendrons, kalmias, and blueberries.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Gaultheria procumbens

Botanical Family: Ericaceae

Also Called: Eastern teaberry, the checkerberry, the boxberry or the American wintergreen

En français: Gaulthérie couchée

Colour:

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Keep soil moist throughout growth and bloom season.

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

Wintergreen Appearance

Wintergreen is a stunning plant that is appealing all year round. The small, bell-shaped flowers that hang from the glossy, evergreen foliage and produce red berries add beauty to the plant. In the fall, the leaves outside will get a gorgeous red tint. “Procumbens” literally translates to “lying flat.” Excellent ground cover for shady areas such as woodland gardens, rock gardens, foundations or native plant areas.

Wintergreen leaves were originally used to make a fragrant oil that was used in medicine. However, eating the leaves raw can upset your stomach. It is best to appreciate this plant’s beauty and smell. Plant wintergreen in your garden so that it can develop into a vibrant ground cover over time.

Winterberry is also used alongside pointsettias and Christmas cacti during the holidays to spruce up decor.

Plant Care

Plant wintergreen in early summer or spring. Throughout their first growing season following planting, plants require frequent and thorough watering. When the weather is dry for an extended period of time, water liberally but less frequently during the second season. To prevent soil moisture loss, cover the area surrounding plants with a 2-inch layer of mulch made of finely chopped tree bark. Wintergreen forms a dense mat by spreading slowly through underground rhizomes.

Soil

Before incorporating wintergreen into the landscape, consider your planting location carefully. Wintergreen has particular site needs, but if your location meets them, it’s a terrific plant. Select a place with loose, sandy soil that is partial to completely shaded. Wintergreen flourishes in its natural habitat in cool, wet wooded areas, particularly those with evergreen trees.

Pruning Gaulthérie couchée

No pruning is necessary but you can harvest the leaves for tea anytime during the growing season.

Light

Winterberry prefers light sun to full shade and do not tolerate heat or drought. Winterberry plants can tolerate some shade and even grow in it, but they will have fewer or no blossoms in areas with more shadow. Plants will not burn but will still have enough energy to develop flowers and fruit thanks to bright, filtered sunshine.

Watering

The majority of blooming plants grown in pots demand regularly moist yet draining soil. The blossoms may droop and may die if the soil becomes too dry. Use your finger to feel the soil’s moisture level. It is time to water if the soil’s top 2-4″ (5-10cm) is dry or if the plants are wilting.

If at all possible, provide water at the soil level to prevent wetting the foliage. Fill the pot with water, and then soak the entire soil area. This suggests that the ground is very damp. Established plants tolerate some dry soils. Plants perform best in climates with cool summers.

Propagating Gaultheria procumbens

Germination seeds require a period of cold-moist stratification (1-2 months).

Space plants 10-14” apart for growth as a ground cover. Seeds need to be separated from the pulp and given 4 to 13 weeks cold treatment. Plant seeds in containers containing peat and sand in early spring. Place in a greenhouse until sprouts are visible. You can also propogate wintergreen’s through division, which is much faster. Divide plants in early spring and ensure they get an average amount of water. You can also propogate in early spring by division. Cut one of the new stem sections with roots and re-plant in sterile seed starting mix. Keep moist.

Wintergreen Companion Plant

A low-maintenance garden that is brimming with interest all year long can be created by planting wintergreen as a lush, colorful ground cover around plants that love the shadow. The following plants produce flowers and stunning foliage throughout the growing season and thrive in cool, northern environments. Plant wintergreen beside Oregon grape holly, snowberry, Ivory Halo dogwood, Ostrich fern, and Rhododendron.

Fertilizers

Following the instructions on the fertilizer, the bottle is crucial to determining how much and how frequently to feed plants since too much fertilizer might harm them. For container plants, slow-release fertilizers are an excellent, hassle-free option. For the right time and application rates, refer to the product instructions.

Wintergreen Flowers and Berries

This spherical, slow-growing shrub has gorgeous, fragrant spring blooms that are reminiscent of orange flowers. However, it is best known for its red berries, which are produced in the fall, remain on the shrub all winter, and have a wealth of medicinal benefits. In fact, the attractive red fruits that appear after the blossoming maintain the color of wintergreen, vibrant from spring through winter.

Fruits may be eaten raw or added to pastries and salads. Wintergreen has been a popular flavoring for chewing gum, candies and toothpaste. The leaves can be used to make tea.

Berries are an excellent winter food for some wildlife such as pheasant, grouse, squirrels and deer.

Harvesting Gaultheria Procumbens

Anytime during the growing season, you can take wintergreen leaves and make tea with them. Wintergreen plants are evergreen, but the leaves turn reddish throughout the winter and have fewer volatile oils, creating a delicious (sweet and occasionally bitter) tea. Harvest them when the wintergreen berries are fully red in the late fall. Throughout the winter, berries can still be harvested from plants, but as the season progresses, they start to dry out a bit.

Wintergreen Oil

Wintergreen essential oil has a strong fragrance and is used to treat muscle spasms such as low back discomfort as well as backaches, tendinitis, arthritis, and rheumatism. All who have experienced muscle and joint discomfort and have found relief as a result of it appreciate and admire its advantages.

Pests and Problems

Winterberry’s volatile oils are effective insect repellents. Root rot or mildew can result from soils with poor drainage. Aphids might occasionally be an issue in the spring, but they are simple enough to get rid of with a water jet.

Other

The scented oils from the plants deter most pests. Poorly draining soils can cause root rot or mildew.

Foliage was once used to make oil of wintergreen which has astringent, stimulant and diuretic properties. Leaves were once made into poultices for arthritic pain and sore muscles. The fragrant oil from Wintergreen’s leaves traditionally used for medicine, but munching leaves raw can cause stomach distress.

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