Living With Limitations: Wintergreen

Gaultheria procumbens, Wintergreen

Shade Solutions Blog has been infrequent to missing lately. I have excuses. My book “A Gardener Grounded: Life’s Challenges Post Diagnosis” is in final edit for publication. Until publication date let’s talk plants.

The Gift

I received an early birthday present from Bobbie Winters, manager at Adamson We Grow Nursery. She had become aware of a new cultivar of Gaultheria procumbens, creeping wintergreen, and purchased one for herself, another for me. I have long sung the praises of Creeping wintergreen, tops among my favorite native groundcovers. To learn of, then receive a plant, fired me up to search the web, to see if any additional new cultivars existed.


Gaultheria procumbens, (Z 3-8), commonly known as creeping wintergreen, is a rhododendron relative with need of the same low pH soil. Loose organic mulch or duff assists roots in forming a groundcover.  Given shade, space to travel, it will form an open mat of polished, thick, leathery leaves. The deep green carpet matures four to six inches in height reaching an eventual three to four feet in spread. In spring flushes of new growth appear in shiny copper-red. In June white urn-shaped blooms will add a couple more inches to overall height. Wintergreen is my favorite for a fall and winter show.  Some bronzing will occur in foliage with the onset of cold weather.  The green and bronze forms a complementary back-ground for brilliant scarlet-red berries that grow in abundance.  Frost and freeze only enhances the show.

Gaultheria Winter Splash Briggs Nursery

Bobbie’s Gift

Bobbie’s gift to me was a container of Winter Splash wintergreen. It is the only variegated gaultheria procumbens currently on the market. Evergreen, same as the species, forms the same spread as a groundcover, but has the added beauty of green, white and pink leaves. All those colors become enhanced during winter when rosy-bronze colors are added.

Trader Joe’s

A week after she gave me Winter Splash I was at Trader Joes’ and saw racks of Gaultheria procumbens with large berries in numbers I had never seen before. The label did not specify a cultivar name but it sure resembled the new Berry Cascade from Briggs Nursery. On this cultivar the berries grow all along the stem creating a cascading effect. More berries would indicate more blooms as well. Orange-red new growth in spring, Burgundy foliage in winter. Two pots made the trip home with me.

More is Better

While all excited and ready to do some searching I will mention a couple more named cultivars at Briggs Nursery I am interested in for my garden. Cherry Berries has extra-large scarlet berries with all the other benefits. I have also located Winter Fiesta with white berries carrying a pinkish cast. Redwood creeping wintergreen, along with Peppermint Pear, a wintergreen with icy white berries are available through other sources.


Give wintergreen a container, place in plenty of light, but not full sun; feed with a slow release acidic fertilizer and you will not believe the transformation.  Creeping stems will circle the inside of a container forming a dense mat of foliage reaching well over six to eight inches in height.  Berries can reach grape-size when heavily fed. In a decorative container the bright waxy red berries over the bronze–green foliage certainly says Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations.

The Design

Next up, where and how I will be using my new collection of Gaultheria procumben cultivars. This one is gone to be fun.

See you in Madison Wisconsin February 8th and 9th at Landscape and Garden Expo. Two talks.