Holly plants for zone 5

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Blue Prince
Pollinator for ‘Blue Princess.’ More cold tolerant than earlier varieties.

Quart: $12.00 Gallon: $18.00 2-Gallons: $30.00

Blue Princess
A vigorous grower with clusters of bright red fruit, contrasted nicely against dark blue-green foliage. Will grow to 8′ x 8′.

Quart: $12.00 Gallon: $18.00 2-Gallons: $30.00

Dragon Lady
Beware of my very sharp claws but embrace my narrow pyramidal shape and dark red fruit. Really, I won’t bite. I also need the male boy toys.

Quart: $12.00 Gallon: $20.00

Blue Stallion
What weaklings! I grow to a conical 20′ and can take care of the ladies. I’m a bargain at any price, if I say so myself.

Quart: $12.00 Gallon: $18.00

Ilex pedunculosa

Unusual and not readily available, this hardy upright evergreen has ficus-like leaves and cherry red drupes. It loves the shade and protected (out of wind) sites. Needs both sexes to produce fruit since no other Ilex is blooming at this time.

Quart: $15.00 Gallon: $22.00

Ilex Verticillata

Winterberry Holly, Michigan Holly, Swamp Holly

These deciduous hollies are best known for their attractive fruit, which colors by October and lasts through January (until the cedar wax-wings or robins gobble them up – or wild turkeys!). They are grown in the trade for cut florist stems at the holidays. Great Eastern native restoration plant. Thrives in moist, heavy, wet soils but must have a good amount of sun.

Aurantiaca
Early bearer of golden orange fruit. Good until Thanksgiving then drops its fruit. Jim Dandy pollinates.

Jim Dandy
Male pollinator for Aurantiaca and Red Sprite.

Oosterwijk
An introduction from Holland with long straight stems, excellent for flower arrangements. Jim Dandy pollinates.

Red Sprite
True dwarf with handsome compact form and large red fruit. Jim Dandy pollinates.

Sparkleberry
An upright vigorous grower with spectacular, smaller carmine red fruit. The best plant for floral sprigs. Apollo or Southern Gentleman will pollinate. (DISCONTINUED due to fungal problem being studied at Ohio State University. Untreated fruit blackens in late fall.)

Southern Gentleman
Late male pollinator good for Winter Red, Winter Gold, or Sparkleberry.

Winter Red
Has become the industry standard. Matures at 12′ with tons of cherry red fruit. Always dependable.

Winter Gold
A chance sport (mutation) off of Winter Red. It really depends on the soil make-up for color but most often will have an orange to gold finish sometimes with a pink blush. Apollo or Southern Gentleman pollinates

All the above are priced the same:

Quart: $12.00 Gallon: $18.00

One male is good for 5 females and should be planted within visual range for best fruit set.

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Holly Shrubs For Sale Online | Garden Goods Direct

Evergreen Holly Shrubs are hugely popular for their easy growing and versatile uses. You can use hollies as a single specimen evergreen or for framing the corners of your home. The holly is definitely a great screening plant and makes a perfect low maintenance privacy hedge. Reliably hardy and versatile, Evergreen holly shrubs are one of the few plants that can be grown in all 50 states. Hollies offer a lot of bang for your buck in the landscape. Evergreen holly shrubs are the workhorse of the garden because they are extremely low maintenance and will thrive in full sun to shade. Their ability to not only survive but to thrive in poor soils makes them practical for problem areas where it might be difficult to get other things to grow. Evergreen Hollies are generally deer, pest and disease resistant and they don’t require supplemental watering once established which makes it a beneficial shrub in areas that can be prone to spells of drought. Birds and other wildlife enjoy feasting on the winter berries, and they are perfect during the holiday’s when you can cut them and bring them indoors for a long-lasting holiday display.

Have you considered adding Evergreen Hollies to your landscape, but aren’t sure where to start? Let us help.

Information on our best selling Evergreen Hollies:

Low Growing Evergreen Holly Shrubs:

Soft Touch Holly: A delicate dense, low compact, mounding shrub with dark green foliage that is soft to the touch. Perfect as a low evergreen hedge.

Brass Buckles Holly: One of the smallest Japanese hollies available, Brass Buckle Holly shines all year long because of its glossy, clear yellow, burn-resistant foliage. It’s perfectly suited to edging walks and borders, as a container plant in milder climates, or as a striking accent in a rock garden. Makes a great and bright replacement for boxwoods.

Helleri Holly: Helleri Holly is a low mounding evergreen shrub with small, rounded, boxwood-like, dark green leaves. It responds very well to shearing making it an excellent selection for a low formal hedge or tight rounded shape that hugs the ground.

Mid-Sized Evergreen Hollies:

Compact Japanese Holly: Compact Japanese Holly is a mounding evergreen shrub with small, rounded, boxwood-like, dark green leaves. It responds very well to shearing making it an excellent selection for a low formal hedge or tight rounded shape that hugs the ground.

Ilex Glabra Densa Inkberry Holly: Ilex Glabra Densa is a selection of our native inkberry that has a broad upright habit and holds its foliage at the base of the plant. This compact holly tolerates heat, drought, sun, shade, and transplanting and grows exceptionally well in urban areas. Flowers give way to jet black ink-berries in late spring which mature in early fall and persist through the winter to early spring unless consumed by local birds.

Ilex Glabra Nordic: Ilex glabra Nordic has a compact, rounded habit that needs little pruning to maintain a formal look. It grows well in sun or part shade with supplemental water in exposed locations. Nordic is a male variety that flowers but does not produce fruit but is needed for other Ilex glabra species to produce the jet blackberries.

Ilex Glabra Shamrock Holly: Ilex Glabra Shamrock is one of the best selections of our native Inkberry holly. It has a broad upright habit and holds its foliage at the base of the plant. Tolerates heat, drought, sun, and shade. It grows very well in urban areas. Flowers give way to jet black inkberries in late spring which mature in early fall and persist through the winter to early spring unless consumed by local birds.

Tall Growing Evergreen Hollies:

Christmas Jewel Holly: Christmas Jewel Holly was selected for its dark, polished green foliage and large apple-red berries. Growth habit is naturally dense and upright. Great specimen for a privacy or noise screen. No pollinator needed for this showy female plant.

Sky Pencil Holly: Sky Pencil Holly is a narrow, columnar evergreen holly that is perfect for small areas. Dark green foliage stays neat year-round. Perfect evergreen for vertical accent, entryways or privacy screening.

Steeds Holly: Steeds Holly is an easy to grow, densely branched evergreen shrub with a natural pyramidal form. Lustrous dark green foliage adds color to the landscape year-round. Perfect when used to frame a front entryway.

Dragon Lady Holly: Considered to be the perfect columnar holly. New flush is dark glossy green foliage with a very apparent reddish tint. Scarlet fruits mature in the fall and remain on the plant through winter.

‘Acadiana’

Ilex x Hybrid ‘Acadiana’ Holly. Tree form evergreen shrub 14′. Berries: red. Dark green glossy foliage with prominent spines. A red berried holly cultivar. ‘Acadiana’ has attractive bronze to burgundy new growth which matures to a deep green and a tight pyramidal shape. Dense branching habit with red fall berries. ‘Acadiana’ is useful in a landscape as an evergreen privacy screen, specimen plant, back of the border planting or foundation plant. Great for bird gardens.

Burford Holly

Ilex cornuta Burford Holly. Tree form evergreen shrub 10′. Berries: red. Glossy, pointed leaves have a more rounded shape than other tree type holly bushes. A good pick for bird-scaping, Burford Holly produces an abundance of red berries they will love. Use in living privacy fences or an a border garden specimen.

Carissa Dwarf Holly

Ilex cornuta Carissa Holly. Dwarf evergreen shrub 3-4′. Berries: none. A compact, dense bush with medium green, glossy foliage. The right height for a low hedge or border, Carissa may also be grown as a container plant. Low maintenance and drought tolerant. Carissa is a male holly so produces no berries.

‘Emily Bruner’

Ilex x ‘Emily Bruner’ holly. Berries: red. Tree form evergreen shrub 20′ with pyramid shape, a good choice for planting privacy hedges and screens. Leaves are a dark green and dense. Foliage is slightly larger than ‘Nellie Stevens’. ‘Emily Bruner’ works well as backdrops in border gardens or as focal point specimens. Colorful berries in fall.

Festive Holly

llex hybrid ‘Conive’ Festive Holly 14′. In fall Festive Holly features an abundance of showy orange berries which are prized for their highly ornamental color. Festive Holly has attractive deep green foliage which emerges light green in spring. The glossy oval leaves remain dark green during winter.

‘Foster’s’ Holly

Ilex x attenuata ‘Fosteri’ Foster’s holly pyramidal 20′. A medium green with red berries and pointed leaves. Foster’s holly is a good choice for tree forming and is suitable for living fences, privacy hedges or foundation plantings. Makes a great backdrop in a border garden.

Goshiki False Holly

Osmanthus heterophyllus Goshiki False Holly 3-5′. Goshiki translates from the Japanese language as “five colors”. The name is appropriate for this plant as new leaves emerge red then quickly turn to green. The thick green foliage is covered with spots of yellow green, creamy white and gray green. Goshiki False Holly is shade tolerant and a best pick for the shady border garden.

‘Helleri’ Dwarf

Ilex crenata ‘Helleri’ 2-4′. Japanese holly box leaved holly. ‘Helleri’ is an evergreen shrub with a dense, multi-branched, rounded shape. The leaves are small and soft. This holly variety is easy to shape and prune and is ideal for front yard accent or along a walkway or path.

‘Hoogendorn’ Dwarf Japanese Holly

Ilex crenata ‘Hoogendorn’. Dwarf Japanese holly box leaved holly, evergreen shrub 2′ Berries: none. A compact, low growing bush with soft leaves. Use ‘Hoogendorn’ as an accent plant or as a low growing hedge. The look is similar to boxwood. Also effective along banks and slopes for erosion control. Plants are male so does not produce berries.

Inkberry Holly ‘Nigra’

Native. Ilex glabra Gallberry, Inkberry Holly ‘Nigra’ evergreen shrub 6-10′. Berries: blue black. A shade tolerant holly with stiff, upright branches, inkberry grows in a rounded habit. Narrow, oval shaped glossy, spineless leaves are dark green. The narrow foliage creates a finer texture than many other hollies and can turn a purplish during winter. ‘Nigra’ inkberry holly produces a heavy crop of black berries which may persist throughout winter. A holly with many desirable features, inkberry is an excellent choice for hedging, mass planting or foundation plants. ‘Nigra’ inkberry holly can also remain full to the ground making it a good substitution for boxwood. The berries are attractive to birds.

‘Liberty’

Ilex x ‘Liberty’ Holly 6-8′. Dense, evergreen shrub has dark green deeply serrated leaves. Prolific, bright red berries during fall decorate a landscape. Use in multiple plantings or as a hedge, also suitable for garden backgrounds. “liberty’ keeps it’s deep color during winter months.

Needlepoint Holly

Ilex cornuta Needlepoint Holly evergreen shrub 10′. Berries: red. Heat and drought tolerant, Needlepoint Holly may be used as a foundation planting or in a privacy hedge or living fence. Foliage is soft with a twisted, delicate shape. Growth is compact and dense. Year round interest with bright berries which will persist in winter.

‘Nellie R. Stevens’

Ilex x Hybrid holly ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly evergreen shrub 15-20′. Berries: red. A hermaphrodite tree form with both male and female flower parts in each flower. This holly does not require male and female plants for pollination and berry production. ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly has a pyramidal shape and glossy, deep green leaves. The leaves are among the darkest green of any holly cultivar. It produces a bright red berry which can persist through winter and are highly attractive to birds. ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ is striking in a landscape when used as a specimen tree and the dense foliage make it effective when planted as as a privacy screen or hedge.

Oakland Holly

Ilex hybrid ‘Magland’ Oakland Holly 15-20′. Oakland Holly has distinctive oak shaped foliage. The leaves are dense and bright green while the shrub features an upright shape. Oakland Holly needs little pruning and is a great idea for planting as an accent or privacy screen.

‘Oakleaf’

Ilex x ‘Conaf’ Hybrid holly ‘Oak Leaf’ 14′. Tree form evergreen shrub. Berries: red. Tall, elegant, pyramidal form. ‘Oak Leaf’ is a hermaphrodite with both male and female flower parts in each flower. Does not require both a male and female plant for pollination and berry production. Attractive emerald green leaves with red berries which persist in winter. The berries of ‘Oak Leaf’ are readily eaten by birds.

‘Robin’

Ilex x Hybrid holly ‘Robin’ Holly evergreen shrub 14′. Berries: red. A female tree form cultivar with lovely, dark green leaves and red berries. The most striking feature of ‘Robin’ holly is its maroon colored new growth. Flowers in spring, and in fall produces clusters of bright red berries. The berries persist into the cold months and add color to a garden during our dreary Georgia winter. ‘Robin’ is similar to Nellie R. Stevens holly although slightly smaller. Effective in a landscape as a specimen tree or planted as a privacy screen hedge.

Sky Pencil Holly

Ilex crenata Japanese holly ‘Sky Pencil’ holly evergreen shrub 6-8′. Berries: dark purple. Perfect for small space gardening, ‘Sky Pencil’ has and narrow, columnar form. Foliage is a deep green which holds its color year round and produces dark purple berries in fall. Great as vertical accent, they can be planted near entryways or used as a privacy screen in narrow spaces. When planted a large container ‘Sky Pencil’ creates a formal, elegant appearance.

‘Soft Touch’ Dwarf Japanese Holly

Ilex crenata Dwarf Japanese holly ‘Soft Touch’ Box leaf holly 3-4′. An evergreen, dense shrub with flexible branches and soft, glossy green leaves. ‘Soft Touch’ is a compact Japanese holly with a moderate, dome shaped form and spreading habit as the plant ages. ‘Soft Touch’ works well in a landscape as a low foundation shrub, when planted in groups or as a short hedge.

Yaupon ‘Stokes Dwarf’

Native. Ilex vomitoria Dwarf Yaupon holly ‘Stoke’s Dwarf’ evergreen shrub 3′. Berries: No – Male. A dwarf from of Yaupon holly, Stoke’s Dwarf’ is an evergreen shrub with tight branches. It grows in a compact, spreading mound, making it an excellent pick for a border, low growing hedge or around foundations. ‘Stoke’s Dwarf’ is a male holly which produces no berries.

Weeping Yaupon Holly

Native. Ilex vomitoria ‘Pendula’ Weeping Yaupon Holly. Evergreen. A distinct, irregular weeping form of Yaupon holly which has bright scarlet berries in fall and winter just in time to decorate a landscape during the holiday season Foliage is small and oval, this tree can produce several trunks in a clump or be trained as a single trunk.. Weeping Yaupon holly makes an elegant focal point at an entry way or as a specimen in a garden bed. Tolerant of many conditions.

Winterberry Holly

Native. Ilex verticillata Winterberry holly ‘Winter Red’ or ‘Red Sprite’ female form, ‘Southern Gentlemen’ and ‘Jim Dandy’ male. Deciduous 6-9′. Berries: Orange red on female plants. A beautiful deciduous holly, winterberry has gorgeous red berries along the stems during winter time and is known as a Christmas berry. Great for growing in masses as an informal border, winterberry adds color to a winter landscape. Male (‘Southern Gentlemen’ or ‘Jim Dandy’) and female (‘Winter Red’ or ‘Red Sprite’) plants required for pollination and berries. Outstanding shrub for bird and wildlife gardens.

Winterberry Holly ‘Berry Heavy Gold’

Native. Ilex verticillata Winterberry holly ‘Berry Heavy’. A Proven Winners plant. The large, yellow gold berries of ‘Berry Heavy Gold’ make this a unique winterberry holly. It is a deciduous shrub which drops the leaves on fall, leaving behind branches covered in gold fruit.

Holly bushes for sale in our plant nursery garden center subject to change. Containers or B&B.

Holly Shrubs For Zone 5: Growing Holly Plants In Zone 5

Holly is an attractive evergreen tree or shrub with shiny leaves and bright berries. There are many species of holly (Ilex ssp.) including the popular ornamentals Chinese holly, English holly and Japanese holly. Unfortunately, for those who live in chilly zone 5, few of these are hardy holly varieties. However, growing holly plants in zone 5 is possible if you select carefully. Read on for information about choosing holly shrubs for zone 5.

Hardy Holly Varieties

You’ll find over 400 species of holly in the world. Many are broadleaf evergreens and offer glossy leaves and bright, bird-pleasing berries. The species range in zone, shape and cold hardiness. Hollies are not demanding or difficult plants to grow. However, before you start growing holly plants in zone 5, you’ll want to check their cold hardiness.

Chinese, English and Japanese holly shrubs are not hardy holly varieties. None of these popular plants could be used as zone 5 holly shrubs since none survive zone 5 winters, which can get between -10 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 to -29 C.). These species are sometimes hardy to zone 6, but cannot survive the temperatures in zone 5. So are there holly varieties for those residing in zone 5? Yes, there are. Consider American holly, a native plant, and the blue hollies, also known as the Meserve hollies.

Holly Shrubs for Zone 5

The following holly shrubs are recommended for growing in zone 5 landscapes:

American holly (Ilex opaca) is a plant native to this country. It matures into a lovely pyramid-shaped tree that grows to 50 feet tall with a 40 foot spread. This type of holly thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.

Growing the shrub in zone 5 is possible if you plant American holly and site it where it receives four hours or more of direct, unfiltered sunshine per day. This holly shrub needs soil that is acidic, rich and well-drained.

Blue Hollies

Blue hollies are also known as Meserve hollies (Ilex x meserveae). They are holly hybrids developed by Mrs. F. Leighton Meserve of St. James, New York. She produced these hollies by crossing prostrate holly (Ilex rugosa) – a cold hardy variety – with English holly (Ilex aquifolium).

These evergreen shrubs are more cold tolerant than many types of holly. They have leathery dark blue-green leaves with spines like English holly leaves. Growing these plants in zone 5 is easy. Plant the cold hardy holly shrubs in well-drained, moist soil. Choose a location where they will get some shade in summer.

If you are looking for zone 5 holly shrubs in this group, consider the blue holly cultivars ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess.’ They are the most cold hardy of the series. Other Meserve hybrids that can serve the landscape well include China Boy and China Girl.

Don’t expect rapid growth when you are planting Meserve hollies. They will get to about 10 feet tall in time, but it will take them quite a few years.

Holly

Holly Bushes

Holly’s big plant family includes hundreds of varieties that range from 70-foot-tall trees to petite shrubs less than a foot tall. Along with sizes, these trees and shrubs come in a variety of forms: columnar, pyramidal, rounded, or weeping. Their foliage varies, too, ranging from large, spiny leaves to smooth, small leaves that resemble boxwood. Even holly’s berries come in a variety of hues that include red, pink, blue, orange, yellow, and white. Nearly all of these variations can be sorted into four basic groups: English holly (glossy, spiny foliage); American holly (similar to its English cousin, but with duller leaves); Chinese holly (large glossy, spineless varieties); and Hybrid holly. In other words, there is probably a holly in this diverse plant group that suits your landscape. Check with a trusted local nursery or extension office to learn about the best holly species for your region.

genus name
  • Ilex
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Shrub,
  • Tree
height
  • 20 feet or more
width
  • To 40 feet wide
flower color
  • White
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Winter Interest
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Good For Privacy
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Good for Containers
zones
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10
propagation
  • Stem Cuttings

Holly

Landscape Ideas

Holly provides year-round interest while serving as part of a hedge or perennial border, or in foundation plantings. Its glossy leaves add a refreshing touch to the growing season, even when blending in with other plants. Evergreen varieties take center stage in winter when they anchor leafless garden beds. Tall evergreen hollies are good for creating a dense hedge or screen. When used as barrier plants, holly varieties with spiny leaves are nearly impenetrable. No matter where you plant holly, if pollinated its colorful berries add splashes of winter color and food for birds.

Make a holly wreath for an inviting door decoration.

Berry Production

Many holly plants will produce colorful fruit that remains in place for three to six months of the year, depending on the density of the wildlife population. Whether you want to showcase these colorful berries in the yard or use them to perk up holly branches in an arrangement, you need to have separate male and female plants near each other in the landscape. Female plants depend upon the males for pollination in order to produce berries. Check plant tags carefully when purchasing holly to ensure you buy at least one male plant to pollinate 10 to 20 female cultivars. Choosing a male and female of the same variety helps make sure the plants bloom at the same time—a key factor if you expect bees and other pollinators to work their magic. Be careful about the resulting berries; if eaten by humans or pets, gastrointestinal distress may follow.

These are the best berry plants for birds.

Holly Care Must-Knows

The best time to plant holly is in the spring, with plenty of warm weather on the horizon. Read plant tags carefully when selecting a planting site for holly. Some hollies prefer full sun, while there are evergreen varieties that grow best in areas where they receive part shade in winter. Most varieties prefer moist, well-drained loamy soil that is slightly acidic. Winterberry, on the other hand, grows well in boggy soil. This plant appreciates a moderate amount of water; usually rain will do the trick. Provide supplemental waterings on a weekly basis during times of drought. Fertilize in spring and fall to keep plants at their best.

Holly shrubs don’t typically require pruning unless they become unwieldy or you want to create a hedge or geometric shape. On the question of whether or not (and when) to prune, the holly family is so diverse that it’s impossible to give one answer that will work for all varieties. In general, wait until dormancy for most hollies. Pruning in late fall or early winter means you can use the clippings in holiday arrangements or wreaths. On the other hand, if you prune in late winter you can enjoy seeing the berries outside. Either way, the trade-off is you’ll be removing old wood required for blooming—and therefore future berries. There is no single right answer. Just don’t prune in late summer when the plant will put out new growth that will die when frosts arrive. Worth noting: Late spring is a good time to prune holly bushes into hedges.

More Varieties of Holly

‘Blue Boy’ holly

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Ilex x meservae ‘Blue Boy’ has deeply hued foliage and stems. It’s extra hardy. Plant this variety next to female hollies as a pollenizer. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide. Zones 5–9

‘Blue Girl’ holly

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This variety is an exceptionally hardy holly with dense blue-green foliage and bright red berries from fall through winter. Plant ‘Blue Boy’ nearby as a pollenizer. Zones 5–9

‘Jersey Delight’ holly

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Ilex opaca ‘Jersey Delight’ is a female variety with bright red fruits. Plant with ‘Jersey Knight’ for fruit set. It grows 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Winterberry

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Ilex verticillata is a deciduous holly strung with big crops of bright red berries on winter-bare branches. It tolerates wet soil and is very hardy. It grows to 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9

‘Winter Gold’ holly

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This selection of lex verticillata shows off clusters of golden-yellow berries in late fall. The plant tolerates a wide variety of soils, though it does best in moist, well-drained ground. It can grow 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 4-9

Yaupon holly

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Ilex vomitoria is native to North America and grows 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It tolerates wet soil well and is a top hedge variety. Zones 8-10

Garden Plans For Holly

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Blue Hollies: Premier Evergreens for Northern Gardens

The development of the blue hollies in the 1960 and ’70s was a blessing since they provided a hardy plant with very attractive year-round appeal. The red berries, often carried through the winter months, was an added bonus, especially during the Christmas season. There are a surprising number of blue holly selections on the market, varying from under 75 cm to over 5 m. This article will introduce you to the wonderful diversity of the blue holly.

One of the most popular broad-leaved evergreens for gardeners are hollies. Their glossy, deep-green foliage is appreciated all year. And for the Christmas season, nothing looks nicer than an arrangement featuring holly stems adorned with bright red berries. If you are into attracting birds to your garden, hollies are excellent as they are eagerly sought by robins and waxwings (much to the dismay of those who want to enjoy the berry display through the winter months!) Traditionally in Europe, the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, was the holly species of choice. In the U.S., the American holly, I. opaca is a similar counterpart, while in China, it’s the Chinese holly, I. cornuta. Unfortunately, northern gardeners (zone 5 or colder) could not enjoy these trees and shrubs since the previous ones mentioned are mostly rated for zone 7 or mild areas of zone 6. There is a super hardy (zone 4) species from China called I. rugosa but unfortunately, that species is rather rangy with far less attractive foliage. Thankfully, holly are rather promiscuous and will readily hybridize between species. Plant breeders took advantage of this and created a cross between the hardy but inferior I. rugosa and the very attractive but more tender I. aquifolium. The resulting offspring had the best qualities of both parents; excellent foliage on a dense, compact, hardy (zone 4) shrub. These hybrids are commonly called the blue hollies or Ilex X meserveae, in honour of the creator of the first blue holly, Mrs. F. Leighton Meserve of St. James, New York, way back in the early 1960s.

At this point I should point out that hollies are what botanists call dioecious plants; plants are functionally either male or female. Both produce small, rather insignificant white flowers in late spring. If a male and female are close enough, the female flowers will be fertilized by pollinating insects, resulting in the red berries we associate with hollies. Males are very effective at producing pollen, so one male plant can ‘service’ several nearby females. In fact, the males can service several closely related species, resulting in hybrids, of which the blue holly are an example.

The earliest released blue holly were the cultivars ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl’, released in 1964. These earliest selections, while not as dense as later introductions, are still worthwhile plants. Both grow to 3 m tall and wide, but can be clipped to keep them smaller. Released in 1972 and 1973 respectively, were ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’. These are the standard blue hollies offered in the trade. Plants are very dense with deep-green, glossy foliage and attractive purple stems. Both may reach to 4 m in milder areas but rarely exceed 2 m at their northern range of hardiness. They may be clipped to maintain shape and denseness. ‘Blue Princess’ is not only among the most productive berry producer of any holly species or hybrid, their berries are also among the darkest red. For something a little different, you can try ‘Golden Girl’, whose fruit are yellow rather than the traditional red. More recently have come the selections ‘Blue Maid’ and ‘Blue Stallion’. Both grow faster than ‘Blue Prince/Princess’ and can reach even taller. They are reported to be hardier than the previous cultivars. ‘Blue Stallion’ has the least spiny foliage of any blue holly selections. Perhaps the loveliest hybrid is ‘Blue Angel’. It resulted from backcrossing I. X meserveae to I. aquifolium. The resulting offspring look even more like English holly but alas, has inherited some of that species tenderness, thus is only reliable in zone 5.

If variegated foliage is your preference, then try to obtain ‘Honey Maid’, ‘Honey Jo’ or ‘Gretchen’, all which sport yellow-margin foliage. These are all females and produce red fruit, providing a wonderful contrast to the variegated leaves. The newest introductions, developed in Germany, are ‘Castle Wall’ (male) and ‘Castle Spire’ (female) which exhibit a fastigiate to pyramidal habit not unlike Hick’s Yew. These selections grow 2-2.5 m tall but only 1 m wide. For limited space, you can try ‘Little Rascal’, a dwarf which will reach 0.5 to 1.5 m. The foliage of this selection turns purple in winter.

Included among the blue hollies are hybrids between I. cornuta and I. rugosa. The two most popular selections are ‘China Boy’ and ‘China Girl’. Both can reach 3 m and are perhaps even a tad hardier than the standard blue hollies noted earlier. They are certainly more heat-tolerant. A characteristic inherited from I. cornuta are their leaf margins which arch downwards giving the leaves a distinctive cupped appearance. Also included among these hollies is ‘Dragon Lady’, a hybrid between I. pernyi and I. aquifolium sometimes referred to as I. X aquipernyi. This one has a strong upright, pyramidal habit and may reach 6m! To reiterate an earlier note, any of the male cultivars noted above will pollinate any of the above noted females.

Cultivation is quite simple. Full sun is best for maintaining a dense habit and maximizing fruit production, but part shade is certainly tolerated. Although hardy to zone 4, avoid windswept locations. The soil should ideally be moist yet well-drained, with a slightly acidic pH. Uses include foundation plantings, informal hedges and spiny barriers. Hollies are surprisingly resistant to both insects and diseases. With relatively few broad-leaved evergreens suitable for northern gardeners, the blue hollies have become indispensable landscape plants and a much appreciated addition to our winter gardens.

Images courtesy of PlantFiles

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