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Propagating hollies by woody stem cutting.

Q: Please send information on propagating hollies by woody stem cutting. I do have the Ilex Opaca and would like to grow a few more males.

A: The best source I’ve found for this is from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden “Hollies: A Gardener’s Guide” where there is a chapter devoted to propagation from stem cuttings. Jim

The best information for propagating Hollies comes from two sources, The Brooklyn Botanical booklet on Hollies and Mike Dirr's "The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. The last one isprinted by Varsity Press. I think that the Holly Society still sells The first book. Try the list of publications on the web site. Bill

Looking for a Pollinator
Q: I live in North Carolina and have 21 eight foot Emily Bruner hollies. I would like to have these hollies "berry up" and have been looking for a pollinator for these trees. I have learned that a James Swan, Bob Bruner or Arthur Brunner is what I need. The problem is no one seems to have ever heard of hollies by those names. Can you provide me with the name of a nursery that could help me obtain one? Les
A: Just about any male holly that blooms at the same time will pollinate 'Emily Bruner'. I use a "Blue Holly", ' Blue Stallion', 'Blue Prince' or 'Blue Boy' should do it. Bill

American Holly Mother Tree?
While access to our second-floor displays is limited due to stairs in two of the three buildings, a video documentary of our museum with all our displays, buildings, and grounds can be viewed by anyone who is unable to climb stairs. The cookhouse is easily accessible without the use of stairs or ramps. There is a ramp at the entrance to the Compton House for access to the first floor. There is a handicap accessible porta pot behind the Compton House.

Ilex x virginia parentage.

Q: I wondered if anyone is aware of the parentage of this hybrid - Ilex x virginia. This holly was planted in our garden in the year 2000 and currently stands 10'. Documentation suggests this plant is a Virginia nursery and landscape association (VNLA) introduction and the parentage may be that of Ilex opaque and Ilex cassine. I wanted to verify if this is indeed true and any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

A: I obtained the holly cultivar, ‘Virginia’ several years ago from Mobjack nursery in Virginia. To my knowledge, ‘Virginia is integra x aquifolium x an unknown species. Charles

The hybrid cross for Ilex x 'Virginia' isn't I. opaca x I. cassine! According to the notes I received in 2003 from John Wise of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the proposed hybrid cross was to be Ilex integra x Ilex aquifolium. The male parent for this plant, however, is most likely Ilex x altclerensis 'Hodginsii' (Loud.) Dallimore, thus making the hybrid cross Ilex integra Thunb. (female parent - P1) x Ilex x altaclerensis 'Hodginsii' (male parent - P2).

There is a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the name as I. aquifolium 'Hodginsii'. Mike

Looking for John T. Morris hollies.

Q: Just built a new home and am in the process of landscaping around it. My landscaper is trying to find for me John T. Morris hollies due to deer infestation near my home. Could you please tell me what nurseries would carry these ? I live near Norristown, PA so someone close to me would be great although may not be possible.

A:The only source of ‘John T. Morris’ that I know of is McLean Nurseries, just outside of Baltimore. They usually sell smaller plants, but they may be able to recommend a source of larger landscape-sized specimens. Their phone number is 410-882-6714. You might want to ask them what other hollies they have found to be deer resistant in their experience. Other hollies with small, spiny and sharp leaves include ‘Lydia Morris’ and Dragon Lady (a trademarked name for a cultivar named ‘Meschick’, which rarely appears on the label). Both of these last two are females which will produce some red berries. Of all of these, Dragon Lady is by far the most easily found in the nursery trade. Jim

Dr. Kassab is another one with the same parentage that might be available. Here in North Carolina it grows better for me than John or Lydia Morris.

Thank you for your inquiry regarding the male holly ‘John T. Morris’. A nurseryman not too far from you who had these hollies is David Wells at Water Crest Farms Nursery in West Grove, PA 610-869-3883 or 302-234-1990. He had these hollies in sizes 8 – 9’, 9 – 10’, 10 – 12’, and 12 – 14’. They may even plant the hollies for you. Charles

Ilex rugosa

Q: Would you know where I could purchase Ilex rugosa?

A: Velma Haag who lived near Brevard, NC at about 3500' elev. grew I rugosa for many years. Other than cold hardiness I never saw any other desirable qualities about the plant. I rooted some cuttings and tried to grow them. They would survive as long as I grew them in a container but would die away as soon as they were put in the ground. Most of the offspring from I. rugosa do not do well in the South and I no longer recommend them when ask. I do have one plant of 'Blue Girl' that is 30 years old and has beautiful foliage and sparse berries most years.

I aquafolium is not exactly a lover of southern climates either. I think a person could grow second generation plants from my 'Blue Girl' and get some things better aclimated for the South. Problem is that I don't think anyone is interested in doing this type work at present. Ray

I have an ilex rugosa plant growing in an unheated greenhouse in zone 7A. It is not much of a plant but it stays alive year after year. I don't know why Mrs. Meserve chose this plant but I am glad that she did. The hybrids are super plants. I have never tried to propagate it. Bill

Can I do anything to encourage more vigorous growth of the red fruit?

Q: I have (2) "Blue Prince Holly" bushes (male and female), planted in my Rhode Island yard back in May 2002. To date, I have seen very few berries. With every passing year, I see a few more berries appear, but I was wondering if there is anything I can do to encourage more vigorous growth of the red fruit?

A: Thanks for writing about your hollies. I agree – it’s frustrating when hollies don’t produce the berries you expect from them. It sounds as though you already have a male to ensure good pollination, so the female plant (‘Blue Princess’) ought to produce berries for you. Without knowing the particulars, I could toss out a few ideas. Are the plants in the shade, or perhaps under other trees? This will limit the number of flowers they produce, and hence the number of berries. Other than moving the hollies, you could try “limbing up” any surrounding trees to increase the amount of light the hollies receive – this helps somewhat for my garden. Another problem could be pruning the hollies too aggressively. The blue hollies flower in the spring on the previous season’s growth, so shearing the plants will remove many of the buds for the next year’s flowers and berries. This is a common problem in foundation plantings, at least in my area. Finally, fertilization could help – sprinkling HollyTone, or a general purpose garden fertilizer such as 10-6-4 or even 10-10-10, around the base of the bushes should encourage more vigorous growth in general. You can fertilize in the late winter or early spring, perhaps in late March. Jim


There is one other possibility which should be confirmed - that you have a male and female plants. I sometimes see two female plants together, which are pollinated from a remote male. A male holly 200 or more feet away will provide pollen, but it will usually not be enough for a good heavy berry set.

If you don't mind me asking, where do you live? I live in North Carolina and none of the blue hollies are reliable in setting fruit here. Most of them do not grow that well for us. Blue Princess usually sets some fruit for me and I have Blue Prince to pollinate it. Do you know how to tell the difference between male and female flowers? The reason I ask is that many times I have seen Blue Prince for sale at box stores and it would have fruit on them. I ordered Blue Boy from a large west coast nursery twice and got female plants both times. I still don't have Blue Boy. Ray

What cultivar could a symetrical conical shape and modest height holly be?

Q: My mother lives in Niceville, Florida (Zone 8B/9) and has seen lovely hollies bearing a striking Christmas tree shape used in landscaping here. They don't appear to grow very tall (12-15ft) with dark green glossy leaves and rich red berries. I suspect they are an Ilex apaca cultivar, but do not know which one. Could you help by suggesting any cultivars that have the symetrical conical shape and modest height? Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

A: The Florida panhandle is near the limit of the American Holly’s range, but fortunately, many of its hybrids do well there. Those which are labeled Ilex x attenuata, particularly the cultivars ‘East Palatka’ and ‘Savannah’, are recommended for the region. ‘East Palatka’ is upright, pyramidal, and has the classic “Christmas holly” look with evergreen leaves and red berries. It is grown by many nurseries in the deep south, and gets a very favorable review from the University of Florida Extension Service: . I think your mother would like it! Jim

Preservation of cut holly

Q: I am trying to locate the product 1-naphthalene acetic acid and potassium salts for the preservation of cut holly. This is the product as recommended by the Northwest Holly Growers Association. (their website: ) I contacted them, but have not heard back, perhaps you could recommend a source for said product. I even looked in my horticultural supply house catalogs for the product and was unable to locate a readily available for use product. Thanks in advance for any help you could offer.

A:The potassium salt of NAA is on the website of PhytoTechnology Laboratories at . I’ve never used it for preservation of cut holly, but it works as a rooting hormone also. I would love to hear of your experience. Jim

There are two anti transpirants sold by Griffin Greenhouse Supply, Cloud Cover with Ethylene glycol and Leafshield with Parafin, Oxidized Polyethylene,
Ethoxylated Nonylphenol and Potassium Hydrooide. I have never used either of them. I should try one to help my wreaths last longer. I have heard that the western growers are not quick with advice. Bill


Thank you for the advice, I buy supplies from Griffin Greenhouse Supply and located both Cloud Cover & Leafshield in their catalog. I might have to resort using those products, as of yesterday I heard from Ken Bajema of Columbia Gorge Holly, Oregon. He informed me that most growers in the west use naphthalene acetic acid and potassium salts sold as "K-Salt Fruit Fix 800" (website for product label http://www.amvac= ) from AMVAC chemical company After a lengthy, yet very informative conversation with the AMVAC salesman, he informed me that if you are east of the Mississippi river you can not legally buy or apply naphthalene acetic acid and potassium salts in horticultural applications. With that being said, he did offer some advice on using similar products for leaf retention, although as of yet they have not been tested on holly, so any use would be purely experimental. Much thanks for weighing in with your advice, I look forward to joining the AHS this winter.

Can you recommend a few of the best shade hollies

Q: Can you recommend a few of the best shade hollies for Brielle, NJ? I have a very shady area where I’d like to plant an evergreen screen and I believe hollies will give me the best survival rate for an evergreen hedge or tree – can you help?

A: Hollies can withstand some shade. I’m guessing that you require a screen planting that will reach at least 10’ in height. American hollies, Ilex opaca, are native in your area of New Jersey. They do quite well in wooded areas where sun could be at a premium. They will grow 12 – 18” in height each year so it doesn’t take very long to get a dense screen depending on their height when planted. I would plant them about 5’ apart for a screen. Larger leaves capture more light. An American holly with dark green large leaves that is available in the trade is ‘Old Heavy Berry’. You may wish to use this plant for your screen. Charles

Charles has already given you some great advice - 'Old Heavy Berry' is a great holly. Another American holly that you may find in your area is 'Jersey Princess' - also with large, dark green leaves. It is one of the fastest- and densest-growing hollies in my backyard screen. Another is 'Satyr Hill'. All of these varieties are female, so they will give you some red berries that will attract birds in the winter. Availability of American hollies can be a problem, so be sure to have your landscaper check around with multiple wholesale nurseries. But don't let them try to sell you a variety called 'Greenleaf' - although it's widely grown, it's not reliably hardy in our Mid-Atlantic winters.

If American hollies aren't available, you can probably find a hybrid called 'Nellie R. Stevens' in fairly large sizes. It won't grow quite as fast, or be as dark a green as the American hollies we've mentioned, but should work in your location as well. Jim

I would need to know your horticultural zone to recomend hollies for you. If you do not know your zone call your state extension service, they will know.
Jim's recomendations are good and I would add 'Scepter', 'J.C. Van tol' and Mrs. Santa. Good luck Bill

What is a good male ilex aquifolium to pollinate my female holly?

Q: I have a lovely bronze leaf English holly Ciliata Major. I know it berries because it did the winter I planted it. However, it has not berried since then. What is a good male ilex aquifolium to pollinate this female. I have read now Gold Coast, Big Bull and Robinson's Special, none of which I can find for sale on line. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, Dorothy

A: 'Ciliata Major' really is a beautiful holly, but it doesn't always have a great berry set. You're right to want a good compatible male nearby to provide lots of pollen and maximize your chances of success. It's not absolutely essential to have the Ilex aquifolium species for this, however, as there are lots of hybrids that will work just as well. You might consider the various males of the blue holly series, as these are readily available and bloom heavily. 'Blue Prince', 'Blue Stallion', and 'Blue Boy' are often available at local nurseries (or even the big box stores); they are also available online from such sources as ForestFarm (, which also has 'Gold Coast'). You can also try Rarefind Nursery ( - they carry 'Blue Stallion' and also 'Castle Wall', another good male.

Is there a chart on pollinators for evergreen and deciduous, ilex varieties?

Q: Is there a chart on pollinators for evergreen and deciduous, ilex varieties?
Any information would be helpful. Gail

A:The Forest Farm Nursery has a chart of the bloom periods for many cultivars of Winterberry Holly. They list 22 of them both males and females.
The Society is working on a list of hundreds of cultivars,varieties and species but the work is slow and may not be done for a while.

It is my theory that most Hollies, males and females that bloom at the same time will pollinate. I know that this is not a fast rule but is usually true.
One species that sticks to its own is Ilex pedunculosa.

Usually opaca and attenuatta will pollinate, aquifolium, cornuta, pernyii, Meservae. cilliaspinosa, rugosa,Colchica, Fargisii and many, many Hybrids will work for each other.

The address for Forest Farm is 990 Tetherow Row, Williams, OR 97544-9599, their Web Site is Bill

I am looking for a deer resistant holly.
Q: I am a homeowner in Butler, NJ and am considering the incorporating hollies into my landscape.
However, due to the ecomy I have planted very little since we moved in 4 years ago.

I am still researching deer resistant stuff. My other concern is I don't want to trim anything. I am looking for things that grow to a certain size, and stop as opposed to the dwarf evergreens that everyone has planted for the past hundred years and has to dig them out because they get huge.

I am looking for a deer resistant holly, of which I understand the "Sky-pencil" is not included but one that can be used as a foundation planting that won't become a monster and I can just let grow. I would like something no taller than 12' max or thereabouts.

If my wish is unrealistic please tell me, I can take it. Mark

A: For deer resistance and a reasonably compact habit, I'd try an upright holly called Dragon Lady. It has small leaves with sharp spines, and occasional red berries in the fall and winter. It should be hardy into Zone 6. The deer might nibble on the new growth, but they're unlikely to feed heavily on the plant unless they're really, really hungry. Mine is only about 12 feet tall after 18 years or so, and I've never pruned it to limit its height. There is another holly called 'Red Beauty' with very similar features and good deer resistance. I suspect it may be somewhat hardier than Dragon Lady, but may also be a bit harder to find in your local nurseries.

If the deer are really a huge problem, you could also consider upright forms of boxwood, which will give you the broadleaf evergreen look of Japanese hollies in an absolutely deer-proof plant. (Boxwoods are toxic and distasteful to most animals.) Upright forms of the American boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, include 'Fastigiata', 'Graham Blandy', and my favorite, 'Dee Runk'.

Good luck! Jim

Winterberry Problem
Q: I am writing from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. I am retired and very involved with gardening. The problem I have involves my Winterberry. Quite a few years ago i sent for a Winterberry (Ilex) from Wayside gardens. At that time I received the female plant and they back ordered the male plant. Of course no fruit at first but when I received the male plant the female plant had wonderful fruit. It was a joy to behold in the garden. The male plant died some years later and of course no more berries on the female. I bought a male plant from a local nursery but no pollination. I went to a different nursery and purchased another male. Still no berries. Apparently the male has to be of the correct variety. I don't know the variety of the female as so many years have lapsed . I don't know how to contact Wayside or even if I did they may not carry the same line. How do I find the correct pollinator for this wonderful plant? Thank you for yourtime


A: The problem with winterberries is making sure your males and females are in bloom at the same time. However, it's hard to tell just by looking at the plant whether you have one of the earlier-flowering or later-flowering varieties. For years, Wayside Gardens sold the winterberry variety 'Winter Red' - in fact, I bought one of these from them way back in 1991. If that's really the variety you have, then it's one of the later-flowering females, and a male called 'Southern Gentleman' would be a good match for it. You can buy 'Southern Gentleman' from mail-order nurseries such as Rarefind Nursery or Fairweather Gardens. But to be safe, if you have room for two males, you could order an early-flowering male called 'Jim Dandy' as well, and plant them both in the vicinity of your female. That way you'd be covered!

Good luck! Jim