Our region is blessed with a climate that allows a broad range of ornamentals in the landscape. One of the most popular is the hollies, which come in as many shapes and sizes.
More than 300 recognized varieties of them exist with more being introduced each year. Hollies can range in height, from 18 inches to more than 50 feet. From the majestic, conical Nellie R. Stevens to the delicately branched, low-growing helleri, there is a holly out there for everyone.
Hollies are among the most durable and versatile plants in the landscape, withstanding both drought and cold, which certainly lends to their popularity.
Using plants with many textures and colors is an important consideration when planning your landscape. And hollies can provide outstanding color and texture contrast. Some have a coarse texture and dark green color, such as Burford holly. Others, like dwarf Yaupon holly, have a much finer texture and lighter color.
Landscape uses of hollies can vary almost as much as the different shapes, sizes, textures, and colors they come in. They’re used as foundation plants and for screens, hedges, accent plants, mass planting or specimen trees.
Consider the ultimate size and shape of the mature plant when you select a holly. The 3-foot Foster holly at the nursery can grow upwards of 40 feet and spread out to 20 feet. Therefore, be sure to give each plant plenty of room to grow. And consider how the landscape will look years from now, not just how it looks when you plant.
Many hollies produce beautiful clusters of colorful berries in the fall or winter. These aren’t only attractive but can provide food for birds, too. You may want to consider placing these plants where others can see their showy display of berries.
Allowing sunlight to hit the fruit provides an interesting contrast when you’re looking from inside the house or from another vantage point. You may want to select hollies that produce yellow or orange berries in areas of lower light so that they will stand out better.
About those berries, remember that hollies are either male or female, and only the females produce fruit. For pollination to occur in some species, a male plant must be nearby. If your neighbor next door has the same species holly and has a male, it will most likely pollinate your plant. Bees provide some pollination between different species, too, that flower at the same time. Other hollies can set fruit without any pollination.
If you’ve ever wondered why your holly has never had berries, the chances are that either you only have a male plant or you have a female with no pollinator nearby. With the number of hollies in landscapes today, this is rarely a problem unless you live way out in the woods away from everyone.
Although hollies are extremely tough once they’re established, they do have some requirements. They prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Wet soils that are heavily compacted will lead to weak plants.
Hollies respond well to mulching and light fertilization. While many will grow in partial shade, most will produce a better berry crop and thrive if given full sunlight.