Gaultheria procumbens, commonly known as Wintergreen or Eastern Tea, was a fast seller at Estabrook’s – and I’m talking about a December sellout! This North American Northeastern native has lovely evergreen foliage, sweet nodding, waxy white flowers in spring, and rich red fall berries that persist through winter (unless they are devoured by pheasant, grouse and other foragers). Gaultheria is a slow spreading ground cover that does best in cooler climates; it detests heat and humidity. Deer and rabbits snub the plant (although deer will nibble on winter berries). Gaultheria is a shade loving plant, enduring even heavy shade under conifers. It does best in moisture retentive soils.
Gaultheria gets its common name, Wintergreen, from its leaves that taste as the name suggests. The evergreen leaves turn a lovely reddish-purple in fall. Gaultheria is a wonderful companion planting under Azalea, Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel and other acid loving plants. As noted, Gaultheria sold out quickly at our nursery when it was featured as a winter INDOOR plant (once warmer weather arrives it should be transplanted outdoors). Some unique cultivars, like ‘Macrocarpa’, produce huge berries; ‘Winter Splash’ has striking variegated leaves. Gaultheria procumbens is hardy in Zones 3-8.