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DALY: Hollies are attractive, durable landscape plants

Hollies are some of the most popular shrubs used in landscapes because of their durability and versatility. They are quite diverse ranging from dwarf sizes to larger tree form types. They thrive in our climatic conditions tolerating temperature extremes and dry conditions. Once established, hollies are easy to maintain. They provide outstanding color and texture contrast and are frequently used as foundation plants, screens, hedges and in mass plantings.

Some of the most popular hollies in use are the Japanese, Chinese, and yaupon. Japanese hollies have small leaves without spines and produce small black fruit. The most commonly planted varieties include 'Helleri' and 'Compacta' which seldom grow more than three feet in height.

Chinese hollies are larger in size and have shiny green leaves with spines. The many varieties include "Burford," "Dwarf Burford" and "Needlepoint," which can be used as hedges or screens. The varieties "Rotunda" and "Carrissa" are smaller in size. They have sharp spiny leaves and if planted under windows, they may deter burglars.

Yaupon hollies are native to Georgia. They are hardy plants that can withstand heat, drought and in coastal areas are tolerant of the wind blowing salt water on them. They vary in size from the dwarf, mound like "Nana" variety that grows to a height of three to five feet to the large weeping "Pendula," which can reach 15 feet. There are also a multitude of other hollies that thrive in our area such as the American holly, English holly, lusterleaf, "Nellie R. Stevens," inkberry, and the deciduous possumhaw and winterberry.

Many species of hollies produce beautiful clusters of colorful berries in the fall or winter, which are also sources of food for birds. Hollies are either male or female. Only the females produce berries. For pollination to occur, both male and female plants must be located near each other.

Hollies require well-drained slightly acidic soil. Although most hollies can handle some shade, they produce more berries and have denser growth in full sunlight. Maintenance requirements include occasional pruning and controlling pests such as leaf miners, scale insects and spider mites.

Hollies are definitely some of the best ornamental plants for the landscape. With many attractive features, their ability to tolerate adverse growing conditions and diversity in shapes and sizes, no landscape would be complete without them.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu