How to Grow Gaultheria procumbens Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Checkerberry and Winterberry

The Gaultheria procumbens plant is a native of North America woodland. It is a low growing shrub that can reach about 6 inches (15 cm) in height.

It carries bellshaped flowers of white in early summer and has attractive showy and edible red fruits in the winter.

Plants prefer acidic woodland soils, such as those found in pinelands. The evergreen leaves are fragrant (the scent is known as oil of wintergreen).


Wintergreen photograph by Jason Hollinger.

The fruits are often referred to as teaberries and are edible. The taste is similar to Mentha mint species such as peppermint and spearmint. The leaves can be infused and used in herbal tea and their essential oils used as flavoring.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Gaultheria procumbens
  • Common Name (s): Checkerberry, Eastern teaberry, Boxberry, American wintergreen
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 3 to 8 / H5

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen shrub
  • Plant Height: 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm)
  • Plant Spread: 6 to 15 inches (15 to 45 cm). Spreads from rhizomes to cover larger areas.
  • Blooms: Summer
  • Flower Details: Bells, White, pinkish. Small. Solitary or on racemes.
  • Leaf Foliages: Fragrant. Elliptic to ovate. Evergreen. leathery. Red and purple in autumn.
  • Fruits: Winter. Red, Scarlet. Edible (may cause discomfort in some). 0.4 inches (1 cm) diameter.

Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full and partial shade
  • Suitable Soil Types: Well drained. Organic
  • Suitable Soil pH: Acidic
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Medium
  • Sowing, planting, and Propagation: Sow using fresh seed. Take softwood cuttings. Spreads from rhizomes. Space at about 12 to 15 inches (30 to 40 cm) if using for ground cover.
  • Care: Prune before growth starts again following winter. Remove diseased and damaged shoots and branches, may require using a saw. Thin crowns. Supply with a mulch and feed following pruning.

Further Information

  • Best Garden Use: Shady ground cover. Flower borders, fall and winter color, low maintenance, slopes, containers
  • Family: Ericaceae (heath).
  • Closely Related Species: Blueberry, Cranberry, Erica, Calluna.
  • Miscellaneous: Prefers cool summers. Attracts wildlife, especially birds. Ferment leaves for three days if producing oils. Use leaves to make herbal tea. Traditionally used as a medicinal plant.
  • Further Reading and References used: RHS; Wikipedia

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Gaultheria plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ Ericaceae growing guides: How to grow Arbutus unedo, Fritillaria, and Arctostaphylos plants.