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The very best way to get answers to all of your Holly questions, even those you haven’t thought of yet, is to go to a Holly Society of America meeting. When you see how friendly, knowledgeable and helpful the members are, you will want to be part of the group.

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Questions Answered

For more information Contact Us.

Propagating hollies by woody stem cutting.

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

A: There is information available online for Ilex propagation. If you would like to speak with a professional propagator - please join our group and we will put you in contact with those in our group who specialize in the propagation of IlexSue

Become and Member and learn more about Holly Propagation in Journal, VOLUME 39 NUMBER 2 2021.


I am looking for a male pollinator for this holly.

Q: I am looking for a male pollinator for this holly. Do you have any recommendations? I live in Zone 6b/a. Ilex Koehneana 'Martha Berry'.

A: Hello, Henry. Thanks for the question. There are a number of koehneana males that should work...'Loch Raven', 'Jade', 'Chieftain', and 'Ajax' are nice males with foliage and habit very similar to 'Martha Berry', and will bloom at the right time.  Jim

Cross pollination?

Q: Will Ilex verticilata 'Southern Gentlemen' provide cross pollination for Ilex x aquiperyi 'Meschich' (Dragon Lady)? If not, do you have a recommendation of a male companion for her?

A: Hi, Kate. Thanks for the question. No, I'm afraid 'Southern Gentleman' won't help at all with pollination for 'Meschick' (Dragon Lady) holly. They're much too distantly related to be genetically compatible, and their flowering seasons don't even overlap. My favorite male to ensure pollination of Dragon Lady has been Ilex cornuta x pernyi 'John T. Morris'. But if you can't find that one, you could also try I. x meserveae 'Blue Prince' or another hybrid called Castle Wall (the tradename for 'Heckenstar'). All three are very heavy flowering males that bloom at the same time as Dragon Lady. Good luck! Jim

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. 

A:
Just about any male holly that blooms at the same time will pollinate 'Emily Bruner'. A  "Blue Holly", ' Blue Stallion', 'Blue Prince' or 'Blue Boy' will pollinate. Bill

What male holly would I need?

Q: I would like to grow a Maryland Dwarf holly but all the information I find says it is a female. What male holly would I need? I live in the Kansas City, MO area.

A: Hi, Rita. Thanks for the question. You're right...'Maryland Dwarf' is a female, generally grown more for its dwarf evergreen shape and foliage, but you'll need a male nearby to get any fruit. Any American holly (Ilex opaca) male will suffice. Unfortunately, there are no dwarf males of the same habit as 'Maryland Dwarf', so any male you find will be an upright, pyramidal shape. One of the best is 'Jersey Knight', but any one will do. Jim

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: The hybrid cross for Ilex x 'Virginia' isn't  Iopaca  x  Icassine.  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 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

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

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.
Bob


What Holly would grow as a symmetrical conical shape at a modest height?

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 opaca cultivar, but do not know which one. Could you help by suggesting any cultivars that have the symmetrical 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: http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/Holly.Holidays.htm . I think your mother would like it! Jim


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: An 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'. Both 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.

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. 

A:The Holly Society frequently publishes articles on pollination in the Journal and the newsletter 'The Berry Bulletin'.  Another good resource is the book "Hollies" by Fred Galle

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.

I am looking for a deer resistant holly.

Q: I am a homeowner in Butler, NJ and am considering incorporating hollies into my landscape.

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

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