Wintergreen Shrubs

Cold hardy shrubs with evergreen beauty

Wintergreens belong to the Gaultheria genus, which contains about 135 species of broadleaf evergreen shrubs. Gaultheria procumbens, commonly called wintergreen, creeping wintergreen, checkerberry, boxberry, spiceberry, or teaberry, is the most well-known and popular species for home gardens. G. procumbens is a native North American species that grows naturally in hardwood forests, woodlands, meadows, and fields in the eastern half of the U.S. This plant is so remarkable it received the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Charming ornamental shrubs, wintergreens offer year-round interest. They typically have glossy dark green leaves that turn red or purple in fall; however, today, there is a variegated variety on the market whose leaves are green and white and blush pink in fall. The lovely leathery leaves are aromatic, smelling minty when crushed. Although wintergreens bloom in small, waxy, pinkish-white flowers in spring or summer, they are usually grown for their drooping clusters of showy berries that follow in fall and stick around through winter. Round and fleshy, the edible berries are a valuable food source for birds through winter.

Wintergreens grow and spread slowly. They eventually form a dense colony but are not invasive. Their low-growing, spreading habit works well as ground cover, and they are exceptionally beautiful when allowed to gracefully cascade over hardscapes. They are also great container and garden plants, nice in beds and borders.

Wintergreens are easy to grow, low maintenance, and generally pest and disease resistant. Although the plants tolerate shade, they grow, flower, and fruit best in sun dappled locations with bright filtered sunlight. The plants are cold hardy and prefer regions with mild summer temperatures and average to high humidity. They may suffer in hot, dry climates.