HOLLY PLANTS OFFER HOPE, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

The holly genus, Ilex, offers a variety of plants from which to choose.

There are about 700 species worldwide, some horticulturists estimate. And there is a great number of cultivated varieties. 

Not all hollies have spiny leaves. Many of the Japanese hollies (Ilex
) have spineless leaves. They are often mistaken for boxwoods
with their small, shiny leaves. But boxwoods’ (Buxus) leaves are attached
directly opposite one another on the stem, while holly leaves have an
alternate leaf arrangement along the stem.

Holly plants range from 2 to more than 60 feet tall. Some dwarf types
are great choices for foundation plantings. These include Helleri holly,
Carissa holly, Dwarf yaupon holly and Stokes dwarf, thought to be the
same cultivar as Shilling dwarf.

Don’t let the word dwarf fool you. Many hollies in this category may
reach 3 to 5 feet tall. And Dwarf Burford may grow 8 feet or taller.

Some “tree form” hollies can reach heights approaching 60 feet. These
can stand alone as specimen plants or may provide a tall hedge. A few
hollies that form large shrubs or small trees include many of the
American holly cultivars such as ‘Miss Helen’, ‘Hedgeholly’ and ‘Savannah’.

Hollies respond well to pruning if needed, but it’s best to know the
mature height before planting to avoid future problems of overgrown
plants and unnecessary pruning.

Other tree-form holly hybrids develop by crossing two or more plant
species within a given genus. A few include ‘Foster’, ‘East Palatka’, ‘Nellie
R. Stevens’ and ‘Mary Nell’.

Hollies with multicolored leaves include variegated English holly. And
there are a few hollies that shed annually such as Ambiguous winterberry
and Possumhaw holly. There are hollies that produce bright red berries.
But berry color varies from red, orange and yellow to even black or
white, depending on variety.

Only female plants produce berries. Hollies are dioecious, meaning male
and female flowers are located on separate plants. Male flowers produce
pollen required, in most cases, to pollinate female flowers.

Many dwarf types of holly don’t produce berries because they come from
male plants. To ensure that your plants produce berries, ask for female
plants when purchasing. If the plant already has berries on it, you know
it is a female.

You should consider other characteristics when selecting hollies. There
are weeping forms available such as the weeping yaupon holly. There are
those that have a very narrow, upright habit such as the cultivar ‘Will

Hollies are not foolproof. They may attract pests and must be planted and cared for properly.

However, for the most part, this group of plants has much to offer.
Once established, they require little care and have very good drought

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