‘Winter King’ Hawthorn ~ The King of Your Winter Garden

Winter King hawthorn  - Jocelyn Chilvers

Winter King berries photo © Jocelyn Chilvers of The Art Garden

The winter garden can be a dreary place. Typically we think of conifers to add color to a winter garden but there are some other options.

Deciduous trees, especially those with interesting shapes, bark or berries, are also appealing additions to your winter garden.

One of my favorite small trees for adding clor and interest with beautiful bark is Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia).

But for adding interest with bright, colorful berries, ‘Winter King’ hawthorn (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’) is one  tree that can spice up your garden all year long, especially in the winter.

More About The King

~ ‘Winter King’ has a rounded form with noticeably horizontal branches and few thorns. It grows to about 20′ tall and wide.

~ White flowers cover the tree in May. Some people find their fragrance a bit funky so keep that mind when choosing a planting site.

~ Berries turns a brilliant red in the winter and persists on the tree long after other trees have been striped clean by the birds.

~ Hawthorns are wonderful additions to any wildlife garden. They hold their berries well into the winter and are an important food source for squirrels and birds.

~ Tough, widely adaptable trees, hawthorns are ideal for use in open, windswept areas. ‘Winter King’ prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun but tolerates poor, even compacted soil. It is hardy in zones 4 – 7.

~ Hawthorns can be susceptible for rust disease so plant in an area with full sun and good air circulation. ‘Winter King’ is considered to be quite disease resistant, making it a good substitute for many crabapples.

Crataegus viridis "Winter King'

Winter King cloaked in his autumn robes. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service.

Incorporating ‘Winter King’ Into Your Garden

~ Because of its small size, ‘Winter King’ makes an ideal street tree. Just don’t plant it under, or too close to, utility lines.

~ Make ‘Winter King’ the focal point of a small island or foundation bed. Add some other wildlife-friendly native plants like goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) and sweetspire (Itea virginica).

~ Plant ‘Winter King’ in a spot where you can truly appreciate it in the winter.

What’s the king (or queen) of your winter garden?

15 thoughts on “‘Winter King’ Hawthorn ~ The King of Your Winter Garden

  1. The king of my (zone5) winter garden is the dwarf and differant conifers that have come out in the years lately. There are so many colors and shapes that they are true winter interest

    • John, I just got back from a trade show and there were so many dwarf conifers on display. I’m thinking they’ll be even more popular in the coming years as more & more nurseries start to carry them.

  2. This is such a dapper little tree, I love its form. I have not planted one because of the rust problem. I have wild eastern red cedars around me, and even though Winter King is more resistant, in my experience with other disease prone plants “more resistant” is a matter of very minor degree; it still gets the disease.

    But I have always wanted this beautiful little hawthorn. Does anyone have real garden experience with how bad the rust problem is when there are host plants nearby (not the marketing claim of resistance, but actual experience growing one)?

    • Laurrie, I was talking to my arborist about Winter King yesterday and the first thing he mentioned was rust. I also have some eastern red cedars and he said the rust shouldn’t be too bad. He did say Winter King is a great tree that lasts for a very long time. I think I’m going to get one in the spring so I’ll let you know how the whole rust thing works out.

    • After much research about its wonderful disease resistance and immense admiration for it’s beautiful winter show, I planted a Winter King 3 or 4 yrs ago as a focal point in front of my picture window. I live in Indianapolis (zone 5) and have seen them around town looking quite healthy and beautiful. Unfortunately, I have yet to experience a year without cedar rust, hence no beautiful berries. The nursery I bought it from came out and sprayed it (once) free of charge the following spring after experiencing the rust problem within a few months of planting it the prior May, but it got the rust anyway since I did not know, nor did they tell me to treat it several more times as well. They said it was most likely because my neighbor has a cedar planted in the corner of their yard next to mine and we had had an unusual amount of rain that first late spring that I planted it . We’ve had both wet and dry springs since, but it continues to get the rust, so I have sadly and disappointedly conceded that I will just have to spray it several times next spring and every spring thereafter, to hopefully have the winter show I’ve been anticipating for too long.

      • Shelley, While I’m certainly not an arborist and haven’t seen your hawthorne tree, I’m a bit surprised that the cedar rust would be causing a lack of fruit. My understanding of cedar rust is that, in most cases, it is more of a cosmetic issue. I have several crabapples on my property that are also prone to rust and they fruit even with a case of rust. I typically don’t try to treat the rust since I’d prefer not to spray any chemicals, and since it’s just a cosmetic issue I can live with the less than perfect leaves. It’s unfortunate that you were not told about the tree’s propensity to get rust before you bought it.

      • Hi Debbie,
        I should clarify that it does flower and set fruit. It looks so beautiful at that time. But then the rust happens and the fruit as well as the leaves are affected. All the berries get a powdery orange coating and little spikes all over them and then they shrivel up.

  3. Lovely tree…it feels strange to be on the warm margin of a zone range. Probably that would mean even more of a rust problem(?)

    A grouping of dwarf nandina (pink-to-red foliage), ‘profusion’ beauty berry (pearly, bright purple berries), hamamelus ‘Diane’ (early red-orange blossoms) and ‘Gold Cone’ juniper, set off by Irish moss as a ground cover gets me through the winter.

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  5. I am thinking about plant winter king in my yard as a barrier/screen to my neighbors yard. I live in MD, zone 7. Opinions about this location for winter king would be welcome!

    • Maria,

      Zone 7 is at the southern end of Winter King’s growing area so you should be OK on that front. Winter King needs full sun and a spot with average soil that tends to be a bit dry and not too fertile. Does your proposed location offer these conditions? As far as using Winter king as a screen, just remember it is deciduous so its crown will be bare for several months each year. Also, Winter King is a fairly small tree so at maturity, it will only be @ 20′ tall. If those parameters are OK with you hen I’d say adding a Winter King hawthorne to your garden is a great choice.

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