Holly Tree Types And General Care

Holly bushes are widely known as an emblem of Christmas with their spiny leaves and clusters of scarlet berries. However do you know that there are over 500 species within the holly household? The American holly tree grows natively all around the jap United States. This evergreen tree has many various varieties with native habitats all around the world. From Europe to Japan to the Caribbean. 

Holly bushes can add a pop of inexperienced to your winter panorama and they’re wonderful for borders or hedges. Some holly bushes develop moderately giant, whereas there are additionally holly species that stay on the smaller aspect or dwarf measurement. As a result of these bushes develop year-round additionally they present cowl and meals sources throughout the winter for a lot of birds and different wild animals. Quite a few species of holly bushes are dioecious, which means that you will want to have each feminine and male vegetation for cross-pollination for the feminine vegetation to provide berries. 

Many species share related wants and administration, and under we’ll talk about a  generalized information to holly tree care. Their purple berries and inexperienced leaves make them stand out within the panorama, but when a huge holly tree isn’t your factor there are additionally varieties that extra carefully resemble small bushes or moderately holly bushes. 

Fast Care Information

The American holly tree (Ilex opaca) is widespread within the jap US. Supply: steveburt1947
Widespread Title Holly
Scientific Title Ilex
Household Aquifoliaceae
Peak & Unfold 3-25 ft extensive relying on the range and the biggest varieties can develop as much as 50 ft tall
Gentle Full solar however can tolerate partial shade
Soil Loamy, well-draining, barely acidic
Water 2 inches of water per week
Pests & Ailments Root-knot nematodes, leaf scorch, backbone spot

All About Holly Timber

Holly bushes are made up of over 500 species within the Ilex household. American holly bushes and European holly are probably the most extensively recognizable holly species as a consequence of their affiliation with Christmas Time decorations and traditions. European holly, Ilex aquifolium, is assumed to have derived its title from the Latin phrase acrifolium, which accurately interprets to “sharp leaf.” 

There are native species in many various climates from tropics to subtropics, however they’re most generally distributed in temperate zones worldwide. Under we’ll talk about completely different forms of holly and their native ranges. Holly bushes are perennial evergreens which makes them an awesome selection for growers in Northern climates who want to maintain some greenery round within the wintertime. Typically, the leaves are darkish inexperienced with a shiny and leathery texture. They’re typically additionally very spiky, nearly serrated in look. 

Most holly species produce tiny white flowers that can bear purple berries when correctly pollinated. Although these are also known as berries, they aren’t berries in any respect! The purple fruit is a drupe, which is extra carefully associated to stone fruit, with a single laborious seed within the heart. Holly requires a low degree of upkeep however would require some pruning for those who want to management its form and development behavior. 

Holly Tree Varieties

European holly
European holly (Ilex aquifolium) is what most individuals consider as holly. Supply: nordique

American holly, Ilex opaca, has a local vary within the jap United States alongside the coast from Massachusetts to as far south as Florida and west to Missouri and jap Texas. American holly grows finest in USDA hardiness zones 5-9 and is chilly hardy down to twenty levels Fahrenheit. It’s most simply identifiable by its shiny purple berries that develop in clusters on the leaf axis. Ilex opaca additionally has the basic spiny leaves that many hollies additionally possess. This native holly is a typical sight within the southeastern United States.

European holly (Ilex aquifolium), additionally known as English holly, is usually the kind of holly that’s depicted in Christmas decorations in a lot of England and North America. You’ll have heard the favored Christmas carol, Deck The Halls, by which you’re inspired to usher in boughs of holly. This evergreen winterberry can be generally used as an in-home ornament alongside mistletoe. In Celtic mythology, The Holly King is the wintertime counterpart to {the summertime} Oak King. Their countless battle leads to the fluctuation of seasons. 

Japanese holly, Ilex crenata, is extra compact than American holly bushes with a diffusion of 6-10 ft tall and extensive. Due to their smaller measurement, they make a superb selection for borders or hedges. These holly bushes have extra of a shrub-like look moderately than a tree and are typically known as box-leaved holly. This selection is native to Japan and different areas of southeast Asia. 

Chinese language holly, Ilex cornuta, is also referred to as horned holly which is native to China and jap Korea. It has since been launched to the US and is taken into account to be invasive in southern states reminiscent of Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. Chinese language holly is taken into account to be the fastest-growing holly and would require common pruning to include its development and form. They’re identifiable by their darkish inexperienced, leathery leaves. 

Dahoon holly, Ilex cassine, has a local vary that begins within the southeastern states and extends into Mexico and the Caribbean. These holly bushes want hotter climates and do finest in USDA hardiness zones 7-11. They like swamplands, bogs, and moist soil. This selection is diecious which implies that it has separate female and male vegetation. The male vegetation will produce small white flowers that can by no means flip into purple fruit. The feminine vegetation will bear the usual purple berries. 

Blue holly, Ilex meserveae, is also referred to as blue princess holly. This selection will be recognized by its purple stems and darkish blue-green foliage. It is a feminine hybrid that can want a male pollinator plant current to provide berries. The male varieties are generally known as the blue prince or blue stallion. Like most different hollies, this shrub supplies year-round greenery. 

Ilex mucronata
Mountain holly (Ilex mucronata) has boring foliage moderately than shiny. Supply: Adam Balzer

Mountain holly, Ilex mucronata, also referred to as catberry. The foliage on this selection is boring and doesn’t have the leathery leaves that different varieties are recognized for. This selection is native to the northeastern United States and as far north as Newfoundland and west into Minnesota. It’s the host plant of the Columbia silkmoth caterpillars which can be present in Maine. These holly vegetation want USDA zones 4-9.

Tarajo holly, Ilex latifolia, is one other selection that’s native to Japan and southeastern China. It has tight clusters of very tiny purple berries. These bushes have leaves with a pale yellow-green underside and are typically used as decorative. The leaves will be brewed in sizzling water to make a tea generally known as bitter nail tea. This bitter tea is caffeine-free and is assumed to clear the pinnacle and the eyes, because of this, it has been used to deal with the frequent chilly.

Longstalked holly, Ilex pedunculosa, is native to China, Taiwan, and Japan. It’s known as a lanky shrub and will be mistaken for a vine due to its tall, skinny development behavior. It will get its title from the lengthy skinny peduncle, which is the stalk between the principle department and the flowers. This selection can be significantly cold-hardy. 

Many people are accustomed to the yerba mate that traces the grocery retailer cabinets, both in dried tea type or as an ingredient in canned vitality drinks. However do you know that yerba mate is derived from dried holly tree leaves? Yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis, is a spread that accommodates caffeine and is used to make tea in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil and has since develop into extensively out there around the globe. 

Yaupon is one other beverage that was sometimes made as a standard tribal tea amongst tribes within the southern United States. It originates from the yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, and is one among solely two vegetation native to North America recognized to include caffeine. Yaupon tea is steadily rising in popularity, and this holly grows all through the southeastern United States.


Yaupon holly tree
Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is among the solely caffeinated US native vegetation. Supply: kewing

Since there are such a lot of several types of holly, we’ll talk about the final care pointers under. Sure varieties, nevertheless, might have barely completely different wants. At all times seek the advice of the nursery for tips about the precise selection that you just intend to buy. 

Solar and Temperature

Holly bushes want full solar, however may also tolerate partial shade. As a result of the holly plant can develop very tall it’s finest to plant them on the north aspect of your backyard so that they received’t be shaded out by different bushes, nor will they shade out smaller vegetation close to them. Since there are such a lot of completely different forms of holly, there’s a selection for nearly each USDA rising zone. There are cold-hardy varieties that may be grown in zones 3-7 and extra heat-tolerant varieties that may be grown in zones 7-above. There are varieties of holly which have native ranges extending into Mexico and different varieties that also have habitats as far north as Canada. 

Water and Humidity

Holly bushes don’t require an excessive amount of in the best way of water apart from when they’re first getting established. Within the first few weeks after planting make sure you water your holly deeply no less than as soon as per week. As soon as the holly is established then watering will be reduce. Most hollies are fairly drought-tolerant and may dry out fully between waterings. Leaving a soaker hose on the base of the tree and fully saturating the basis ball is one of the simplest ways to water holly throughout particularly dry durations throughout the summer time. These bushes is not going to want water throughout the winter and can obtain a lot of the moisture that they want from snowfall.  


Hollies want loamy, well-draining, barely acidic soil with a ph between 5-6. They are going to tolerate poorer soil high quality, however it’s possible you’ll not get flowers and subsequently no berries. A soil take a look at to find out the ph is a good suggestion if the berries are your objective and if the soil is just too fundamental then it could actually simply be amended with a soil acidifier. 


It’s finest to fertilize holly bushes within the mid-spring quickly after the chilly climate of winter has lastly handed and the bushes are about to start placing on new development. These vegetation love any sort of slow-release fertilizer formulated for acid-loving vegetation. Typically, these fertilizers are formulated for blueberries and/or hydrangeas that are additionally acid-loving vegetation. 


Holly bushes do require pruning of their lifetime to keep up their total form, particularly for those who’re utilizing them as a hedge. They’re typically slow-growing and most solely want pruning each 2-3 years. It’s finest to do pruning in the direction of the top of the rising season in August or September simply earlier than the autumn/winter when the general development charge will gradual to a cease. 


Holly will be grown from seed collected from the holly berries however will take a while to succeed in a measurement that may be transplanted into the panorama. They will also be propagated from cuttings which is able to measurement up a lot quicker. Take cuttings when doing all of your common end-of-the-season pruning and dip them in rooting hormone, then place them into potting soil. Water properly till roots are established. These cuttings will be grown indoors over winter after which can be able to plant out within the spring. 


Japanese holly
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is a bushing holly selection. Supply: Mother the Barbarian

Holly is taken into account to be a low-maintenance plant because it has only a few pests and illness points and is simple by way of basic care necessities. There are some things to be looking out for that we’ll talk about under. 

Rising Issues

Leaf scorch will be recognized by the looks of round tan spots that happen in early spring and summer time. This may be attributable to the formation of recent leaves throughout cool and damp climate. That is typically out of your management as a consequence of outside climate situations, nevertheless, it may be averted by not starting to water your holly once more till mid-spring and avoiding wetting the foliage. Utilizing a soaker hose on the base of this plant for watering will assist forestall this rising drawback. 


Holly has little to no pests, however root knot nematodes have been recognized to trigger points. They have a tendency to assault the basis ball and the indications of a nematode infestation will current as yellowing leaves, stunted development, and useless areas of the basis system. An evaluation of the soil surrounding the roots will should be performed to substantiate the presence of nematodes. If the plant is properly cared for and wholesome then typically talking the presence of nematodes shouldn’t trigger any long-term points. 


Backbone spot will appear to be pinhead-sized spots on the leaves surrounded by a purple halo. This situation will seem in late winter after a lot development has been placed on throughout the spring and summer time. It was as soon as thought to have been attributable to the spiky leaves poking themselves, however it’s truly attributable to ovipositing of sure bugs. Ovipositing happens when an insect deposits an egg onto the floor of the leaf. This situation is normally solely beauty and doesn’t trigger any long-term hurt to your holly. 

Incessantly Requested Questions

Ilex paraguariensis
Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is well-known as an energy-boosting drink. Supply: Dick Culbert

Q: What’s a holly tree good for?

A: Most hollies are evergreen bushes that add lovely greenery to your winter panorama. Additionally they present helpful cowl for animals and birds throughout winter when different vegetation don’t have foliage to guard them from the weather. 

Q: How huge does a holly tree get?

A: The biggest varieties can develop to be 50 ft tall and 25-30 ft extensive. Nonetheless, there are additionally dwarf varieties and holly bushes that stay a lot smaller. 

Q: Are holly bushes or bushes?

A: Each! There are over 500 species within the Ilex household together with shrubs, evergreen bushes, bushes, and deciduous bushes. 

Q: What birds nest in holly bushes?

A: Many birds are drawn to holly bushes, however mostly American Robins, Jap Bluebirds, Hermit Thrush, and Cedar Waxwings.

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