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Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Nice’ (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Nice’ (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)

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Zone
Zones A2, A3, 1-7, 28-43
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate
Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

Ilex verticillata

Winterberry
Aquifoliaceae
Deciduous, Shrubs

ILEX

Many hundreds of species and hybrids exist. Smaller kinds are attractive as foundation plantings or low hedges; larger evergreen sorts make attractive and impenetrable tall hedges or screens. In size, they range from foot-high dwarfs to trees 40–50 ft. tall. 

Nearly all holly plants are either male or female, and as a rule both sexes must be present in order for female plants to set fruit. Best bet is to plant a male of the same species as the fruiting females; if you use a different species, berries will form only if both plants flower at the same time. 

Most hollies prefer rich, slightly acid garden soil with good water drainage. (A few exceptions are noted.) All appreciate a mulch to deter weeds and keep soil cool and moist. Though plants will grow in sun or part shade, choose a sunny spot for best berry production and most compact growth. Scale can cause problems in all holly-growing areas. Holly bud moth and leaf miner need attention on English holly in the Northwest; for control, employ only products currently registered for use against those pests. Diseases are rarely a problem for home gardeners.

Most hollies tend to be dense and symmetrical. Prune mainly to remove poorly placed, broken, or dead branches. Winter holiday season is a good time to prune, because clipped branches can be used for indoor decoration. You can restore a holly that has become too open or ragged by severely shortening its branches and allowing new growth to fill in. Small-leafed hollies can be sheared into formal hedges or topiary figures.

Ilex verticillata

This deciduous shrub is native to eastern North America. Unlike most hollies, it will thrive in boggy soils, although it also succeeds in any moist, organic soil. Grows 6–10 ft. tall and spreads wider by suckering. Oval leaves. Enormous crop of bright red berries ripens in early fall and lasts all winter (unless eaten by birds). ‘Afterglow’ has orange-red berries on a globe-shaped plant. ‘Berry Heavy’ and ‘Berry Nice’, both to 8 ft. tall and wide, are especially heavy producers of red berries. ‘Winter Red’ has dark red berries. ‘Red Sprite’ is a dwarf (to 3 ft. high and wide) with larger red fruit. Plant a male variety such as ‘Jim Dandy’ (to 4 ft.) or ‘Southern Gentleman’ (to 6 ft.) for pollination.

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