Nellie r stevens holly

Nellie Stevens Holly Care: Tips On Growing Nellie Stevens Holly Trees

Holly plants provide glossy, deeply cut leaves and brightly colored fruit year around. Their ease of care makes them popular choices for gardeners in temperate to warm ranges. Growing Nellie Stevens holly trees provides you with one of the fastest growing of the hollies with branches packed with berries. The Nellie Stevens holly plant is a hybrid of Ilex cornuta and Ilex aquifolium. It has an interesting back story and an even more interesting growth form.

Nellie Stevens Holly Plant Info

Hollies are timeless classics that make a large impact on the landscape with very little special care required. These easy-to-grow plants provide cover and food for birds and natural holiday décor for the home. Nellie Stevens is a happy accident between a Chinese holly and an English holly. It was grown from berries filched by Nellie Stevens in the early 1900s. The resulting plant was almost removed in a home remodel in 1952 but was subsequently saved.

Among this plant’s many attributes is its natural pyramidal form. It can grow up to 25 feet when mature and is one of the heaviest bearing

of the hollies. Leaves are 2 ½ inches long with 5 to 6 deep teeth on each side and glossy green coloring. Much of the fruit seems to set without a male – Edward J. Stevens is the name for the male plant in the species – plant’s intervention (parthenocarpic) and numerous pea sized, red berries appear in fall.

These plants are dense and make a nice screen and can be grown as either multi-stemmed or single stemmed plants. The plant was finally discovered by Nellie Steven’s niece who took seeds to the Holly Society annual meeting for identification. The plant couldn’t be identified and a new species was named.

How to Grow Nellie Stevens Holly

This holly is very adaptable to either full sun or partial shade locations. It is resistant to deer and rabbits and will develop drought tolerance with maturity.

The tree even thrives in poor soil and doesn’t mind mild neglect, though plants prefer slightly acidic well-drained soil.

Nellie Stevens is suitable for gardens in United States Department of Agriculture zones 6 to 9. It is a fast growing plant and useful as screen due to its thick foliage. Space plants 6 feet away when growing Nellie Stevens holly trees for a hedge effect.

This holly is also remarkably resistant to most pests and diseases with the occasional exception of scale.

Nellie Stevens Holly Care

This has become a popular plant in cultivation since its introduction. This is partly because Nellie Stevens holly care is minimal and the plant is resistant to a host of bothersome conditions and pests.

Many gardeners may wonder, “Are Nelly Stevens berries poisonous?” Berries and leaves can be dangerous to small children and pets, so some caution should be used. Fortunately, the plant takes to shearing quite well and, although it forms a lovely shape naturally, pruning can help minimize berries at the lower heights. The best pruning time is early spring before new growth emerges.

Most plants do not need regular fertilizing but optimum health can be maintained with a granular slow release food of a 10-10-10 ratio.

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Popular Hedge for Complete Year-Round Privacy

Why Nellie Stevens Hollies?

The Nellie Stevens has soared in popularity. Why? Well, for starters, it’s the ideal selection for both hedging and privacy screening, especially since it grows up to 3 feet each year.

Plus, it thrives on neglect. No green thumb is no problem since they grow in sun or partial shade. And you’ll appreciate how these holly trees stay deep green year-round, unlike other hedge trees that can brown out during either the summer heat or mild droughts.

Plant each Nellie Stevens Holly 5 to 6 feet apart for a living wall that gives you complete privacy, no holes and no gaps. You control how they grow – whether that’s naturally into a dense, pyramidal shape that matures at 15 to 25 feet in height, or pruned into a tall box hedge.

Why is Better

And because they grow as much as 2 to 3 feet per year without pruning, they’re truly one-of-a-kind. Furthermore, during the winter months, you’ll enjoy the Nellie Stevens’ red berries against its deep green foliage. Clip off a few branches to decorate your home for the holidays. Dazzling, graceful wildlife also emerges since those berries attract an array of birds.

But the best part? We plant, grow and nurture our Nellie Stevens for best results. That means you get effortless, amazing-growing benefits without hassle on your part. Once your Nellie is shipped to your door, it’s ready to grow and adapt easily in your own landscape.

You won’t find a better privacy screen at such a low price. These will sell out shortly, so hurry and grab a few Nellie Stevens of your own!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: Choose a planting area with full sun to partial shade (4 to 8 hours of sunlight per day). They need the sun to develop the pretty red fruits, and while Hollies have both “male” and “female” plants, Nellie Stevens is a variety that produces berries reliably without a “male” around for pollination.

To plant your Nellie (be sure to wear gloves), dig a hole as deep as the tree’s root ball and twice as wide. Remove the tree from the container and place in the hole (this is where the gloves come in handy) If the tree’s root ball is situated lower than the surrounding soil, pick up the tree and add some more soil to the hole.

Fill in around the tree with a 50/50 blend of the native soil you removed from the planting hole and a mixture of gardening soil. Mulch around your tree with shredded hardwood or pine straw.

2. Watering: Nellie Stevens is fairly drought tolerant. Water new trees twice a week for the first two months. After two months, water once a week up until six months. At that time, the tree will be well-established and will only need extra water if it is very windy and sunny during the winter.
A good rule of thumb for watering broad-leaf evergreens (trees with wide evergreen leaves) is to water deeply (count to forty on each plant) once a week for the month before the ground typically freezes. If you have several days above 50 to 60 degrees in the winter, it doesn’t hurt to give your Nellie Stevens Holly trees a drink.

3. Pruning: Holly Trees grow tall and shapely without much pruning. If you want a bushier, rounder plant, cut off the top of the tree. This will cause buds in the interior of the tree to sprout and the tree will have a fuller look. You can also hedge or prune these trees for shape. Always cut back to a leaf to hide your pruning cuts.

4. Fertilizing: Fertilize Hollies in the spring and fall with special fertilizer made for acid-loving plants. Holly-Tone is widely used for fertilizing.

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  1. English holly (Ilex aquifolium): This is a tree that grows to be 30 to 50 feet tall, with a spread of 15 to 25 feet. As such, it is suited mainly to larger yards. Its species name tells you what its leaves are like: It comes from the Latin words acus (needle) and folium (leaf). This is one of many kinds of holly that has prickly leaves (but not all do). I. aquifolium ‘Argenteomarginata’ is an example of holly with two-toned leaves. Grow it in zones 6 to 9.
  2. American holly (Ilex opaca): Another kind that grows in tree form, the American holly is not as big as the English version, reaching 15 to 30 feet in height, with a width of 10 to 20 feet. It is thus better suited than the English if you are lacking space. Native plant lovers in North America will also prefer it for its native status. One cultivar, namely, ‘Aurea,’ sports yellowish fruit, just in case you are not interested in the more typical red-berried hollies. Grow it in zones 5 to 9.
  3. Japanese holly (I. crenata): The Japanese holly also offers some interesting variations on the better-known hollies. Examples are ‘Sky Pencil’ (four to 10 feet tall with a width not much more than one foot; zones 6 to 8) and the ‘Hetz’s’ cultivar (three to six feet tall and wide; zones 5 to 8). They produce blackberries. ‘Sky Pencil’ is even more valued for its column-like shape.
  4. Chinese holly: The Chinese holly goes by the botanical name of I. cornuta. The ‘Burfordii’ cultivar (zones 7 to 9) may be the best-known in the Southern United States. This is because it performs relatively well in hot areas, in addition to tolerating drought. It is considered a fast-growing shrub, reaching 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide when mature.

Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’

  • Attributes: Genus: Ilex Family: Aquifoliaceae Life Cycle: Woody Wildlife Value: Fruits are attractive to birds. Flowers attract bees. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksi. Play Value: Wildlife Food Source Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Mildly resistant to damage by deer, moderately salt tolerant. Dimensions: Height: 15 ft. 0 in. – 24 ft. 6 in. Width: 10 ft. 0 in. – 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Shrub Tree Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Habit/Form: Dense Erect Pyramidal Growth Rate: Rapid Texture: Medium
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: Clay High Organic Matter Loam (Silt) Sand Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Occasionally Wet Available Space To Plant: 12-24 feet Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b

  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Red/Burgundy Fruit Value To Gardener: Long-lasting Showy Display/Harvest Time: Winter Fruit Type: Berry Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: Abundance of bright red globose berries. This plant is a female clone.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: White Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Size: < 1 inch
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Leathery Prickly Leaf Value To Gardener: Long-lasting Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Elliptical Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Width: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: Glossy, deep green leaves that are attractive year round. Leaves are alternate, simple, bullate, elliptic, and have 1-2 spines on each side. They have a terminal spine at the apex and often vary in the number of spines they have.
  • Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No
  • Landscape: Landscape Theme: Drought Tolerant Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Barrier Foundation Planting Hedge Mass Planting Screen/Privacy Attracts: Pollinators Songbirds Specialized Bees Resistance To Challenges: Deer Drought Salt Problems: Spines/Thorns

Nellie Stevens Holly

For a fast evergreen solution in your warm climate landscape, you really can’t go wrong with the Nellie Stevens Holly (Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’). Growing up to three feet a year, this fast-growing evergreen is naturally dense and grows into a large pyramidal shape with little or no pruning.

It thrives in hardiness Zones 6 – 9, and performs beautifully in both coastal exposure, hot humid and hot dry climates. Our customers tell us it’s the fastest growing Holly they have ever seen!

The leaves are a beautiful, glossy dark green color all year long. In springtime, white flowers are hidden under the dense canopy and inconspicuous. But you’ll definitely notice the crimson berries in fall. They contrast so beautifully against the dark green leaves.

Nellie Stevens Holly makes a stunning fall and winter display. Best of all, this abundant berry display is possible without the need of an additional pollinating variety. (Although when planted with the beautiful Burford Dwarf holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordi) close by, even greater volumes of berries are possible.)

Get started on your privacy screen. Order this magnificent home garden selection today!

How to Use Nellie Stevens Holly in the Landscape

This fast grower is an ideal choice for privacy screens and hedges. Let it grow naturally into a lovely pyramid or get out the trimmers to shape it into a tall, formal box hedge.

Train into a single trunk specimen for a delightfully ornamental evergreen tree by simply removing the lowest branches from the main trunk. Nellie Stephens makes an amazing small accent tree for a private corner of your yard. Try one at a corner of your foundation planting for effortless good looks.

Or, go for a portable screen by using them in large containers. Nellie Stevens Holly makes a perfect patio container tree. Imagine the Christmas display!

After all, the fall and winter interest is one of the main reasons for growing Holly trees. Decorate your containers with holiday lights or cut branches to decorate your home during the holidays.

The bright berries bring cheery holiday spirit to your landscape. And bird-lovers can rejoice, as they watch as local songbirds dig in and enjoy the berries as the winter sets in.

Plant the Nellie Stevens Holly five feet apart (measuring from trunk to trunk) to achieve complete privacy with a living wall or use it as an accent to create texture and color in your yard.

#ProPlantTips for Care

The Nellie Stevens Holly is as durable as it is beautiful. Landscapers love this selection for its fast growth and hardiness. Plant it in well-drained soil for best results. Give them pine bark mulch over the root system.

These tough plants can withstand poor soil, as long as the drainage is good. They’ll survive through a moderate drought. Once established, they can even tolerate neglect. It also can grow in more shade than any other Holly variety (although it will do best in full sun!)

They prefer a slightly acidic soil, so feed with an acid fertilizer like Dr. Earth Acid Lovers Organic and Natural Premium Fertilizer twice a year. In high pH soils, you’ll feed them once in late winter and again in midsummer. This is especially important for container-grown trees to maintain the plant’s luster.

Nellie Stevens can be pruned aggressively to most any shape or form. Best time for punning is early spring.

And what about the name of this plant? Well, story has it that an avid gardener named Nellie R. Stevens swiped a few berries on her visit to the U.S. Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. and planted them at her home. While we never recommend planting strange plant material in your yard, in this case, it turned out to be a happy event for Mrs. Stevens.

With its shiny, dark, leathery evergreen leaves, an almost perfect pyramidal form and wonderful full-sized red berries that persist into Christmas, Nellie Stevens’ Holly was a perfect fit for the home garden. Eventually, the American Holly Society determined that indeed, everything about this variety was unique, and in time it was confirmed that Nellie’s Holly was in fact a new species.

It was determined that this new variety is a Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) crossed with an English holly (Ilex aquifolium). Thank you, Mrs. Nellie R. Stevens!

Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’

  • Considered by many to be one of the most attractive hollies
  • Very low-maintenance plant
  • Fast-grower!
  • Ideal for use as a solid privacy hedge, security barrier or windbreak

Nellie Stevens Holly is a favorite in our area, made popular because this beautiful Holly is an ideal choice for hedges and privacy screens! A hybrid between English Holly and Chinese Holly, Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens,’ is a fast-growing evergreen shrub with dense dark green foliage and a pyramidal growth habit that gives it a place in the tree category. Of course, you get the lovely foliage all year long with the bonus of tiny white flowers in the spring and beautiful ruby red berries in the winter. We like to use them along property lines or as separators within a yard. Plant them several feet apart to make a solid natural living wall to block unwanted views and to keep nosy neighbors at bay! If you want to create a private backyard or front yard for solitude, you cannot go wrong with this Nellie Stevens Holly!

Nellie Stevens Holly trees are very low-maintenance plants. In fact, they thrive on neglect, so just let them grow and do what they do best, providing beauty, privacy and adding year-round interest to any size landscape! These hollies thrive in a spot with partial to full sun exposure and benefit from fertilizer before new growth begins in spring. Once established, they will require little to moderate water.

Time to add privacy and windbreak features to your property? Visit any of our nurseries throughout Houston, and our nursery pros will be glad to help you handpick the perfect Nellie Steven Holly! While you are visiting Moon Valley Nursery, be sure to take advantage of our free home and business landscape design consultations!

Plant of the Week: Nellie R. Stevens Holly

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in “Plant of the Week.” Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

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Nellie R. Stevens Holly
Latin: Ilex x Nellie R. Stevens

Gardens and the plants in them are ephemeral. Here today, gone tomorrow. But sometimes fate intervenes, and new and interesting plants are saved and passed on to future generations.

Nellie R. Stevens holly is such a plant. It was almost ripped out to make way for a garden expansion but was saved by a happy series of events that eventually propelled it into the spotlight as one of the most popular large hollies for southern landscapes.

Nellie R. is the result of a chance interspecific cross between the Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) and English holly (I. aquifolium). Though the bees were responsible for the pollen dabbing, it was a schoolmarm named Nellie R. Stevens (1866-1942) from Oxford, Md., who filched a few berries on a visit to the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. This fateful trip was in the fall of 1900, but the plant was not known outside the family until 1952 when Nellie’s niece decided it was time to remodel the garden.

Nellie R. Stevens holly is a big, pyramidal plant capable of reaching 25 feet high when mature. It has dark green, 2½-inch long foliage with two or three blunt spines on each side of the leaf. In the fall, it has a respectable display of red, pea-sized berries.

Berry set appears to be parthenocarpically – berries without the benefit of male pollination. This trait is common in Chinese hollies but not in the English holly parent. A male clone, ‘Edward J. Stevens’ was also named from the seeds Miss Nellie planted, but the male form is seldom seen in the nursery trade and does not seem to be critical for berry set. Edward J. was Miss Nellie’s father.

The holly was saved because Eunice Highley, Miss Nellie’s niece and owner of the home where she planted the holly seeds, attended a meeting of the Talbot County Garden Club where the program just happened to be on hollies. The speaker, Gus Van Lennep of nearby St. Michael, MD, was invited to come see the hollies and try to identify them. He couldn’t, and when experts with the America Holly Society couldn’t either, they realized they had a new kind of plant on their hands.

Highley finally decided to preserve the plants, and the annual meeting of the Holly Society met there in 2000 to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the seeds being planted.

The story of the Nellie R. Stevens holly is told in an interesting book entitled Legends of the Gardens, but subtitled “Who in the World is Nellie Stevens?” This delightful little book, authored by Linda Copeland and Allan Armitage and published in 2001 by Wings Publishers in Atlanta, Ga, tells the personal stories associated with a number of garden plants that were christened with the names of real gardeners.

Just as gardens are ephemeral, so are the stories of how new plants are discovered and developed. By their very nature, gardens are personal spaces preserving and displaying all manner of plants. The stories associated with the plants a gardener chooses to grow, especially if they have a personal connection to the gardener, are one of the best features of any garden.

The popularity of Nellie R. Stevens holly is due to its wide adaptability and ease of growth. It grows in sun or light shade where it doesn’t flinch at poor soils, drought or general neglect. Nellie R. is useful for screening or can be used as a stand-alone specimen.

A planting on the U of A campus in Fayetteville is now eight years old and plants are 8 feet tall and developing the squatty, but upright, look they display. Like all hollies, this shrub is easy to control by shearing. If it becomes overgrown, it can be cut back severely, but really hard pruning should be delayed until early spring just before new growth begins.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist – Ornamentals
Extension News – November 19, 2004

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.

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