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Butcher's Broom Ruscus aculeatus

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
RUS-kus ah-kew-LAY-ah-tus
Description

Ruscus aculeatus, or Butcher's broom, is an evergreen shrub. The plant grows well in partial or lightly shaded sites, but will tolerate full shade, in a range of soil types, and in average well-drained soil. and can be useful as a hedge. It is hardy and tolerates drought, heat, and salt. Plants have a slowly creeping rootstock and will form large clumps. It may sucker to form colonies and you should cut away dead stems at the base of the plant in the spring. The plant is also commonly known as Knee Holly because, when mature, it reaches knee height. 

Most species of Ruscus are dioecious (that is, have separate male and female plants) except for this species which sometimes has self-fertile flowers. Regardless of this trait, you should plant both sexes in a ratio of one male to six female if maximizing fruit production is desired. The flowers of this plant are insignificant, but they are followed by bright, waxy, red berries that last from late summer into the winter. The actual leaves of this shrub are very small. The glossy dark green parts of the plant that appear to be leaves are actually shoots or stems that act as a base for the flowers and berries. 

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

No known insect or disease problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Wheeler's Variety'
'Wheeler's Variety'
Tags:
#evergreen#showy berries#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#shrub#salt tolerant#hedges
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Wheeler's Variety'
'Wheeler's Variety'
Tags:
#evergreen#showy berries#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#shrub#salt tolerant#hedges
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ruscus
    Species:
    aculeatus
    Family:
    Asparagaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North Africa, West Asia, Europe
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 6 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Mounding
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Prickles
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Description:
    Glossy red fruit on female plants in fall (provided there is a male plant nearby). Persists into winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    Colored Sepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small, dull gray-white flowers in spring. Some cultivars are perfect flowered.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Actual leaves are microscopic. The bush does display ovate, thick, spiny-tipped, glossy dark green, leaf-like structures (to 1 1/2 inches long) that are flattened leaf-like shoots (modified stems) called cladophylls on which the flowers and fruits are borne.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Hedge
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Heavy Shade
    Salt