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American Holly

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The consummate holly tree featuring spiny, evergreen leaves and showy red berries in winter, naturally pyramid-shaped; an excellent interest plant for the winter garden, somewhat slow growing, does best in evenly moist, acidic soils

Characteristics

Species:
opaca
Average Landscape Height:
30 feet
Average Landscape Width:
20 feet
Genus:
Ilex
Branching:
excurrent
Evergreen:
1
Plant Form:
pyramidal
Canopy:
low
Density:
dense
Growth Rate:
slow
Pruning:
late winter pruning
Summer Foliage Color:
olive
Maximum Light:
full sun
Minimum Light:
partial shade
Maximum Moisture:
moist
Minimum Moisture:
moist
Pollution Tolerance:
medium

Ornamental Features

American Holly is primarily grown for its highly ornamental fruit. It features an abundance of magnificent red berries from mid fall to late winter. It has olive green evergreen foliage. The spiny oval leaves remain olive green throughout the winter.

Landscape Attributes

American Holly is a dense evergreen tree with a strong central leader and a distinctive and refined pyramidal form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

Planting & Growing

American Holly will grow to be about 30 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 3 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 80 years or more. This is a dioecious species, meaning that individual plants are either male or female. Only the females will produce fruit, and a male variety of the same species is required nearby as a pollinator.

This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth, but will die in standing water. It is very fussy about its soil conditions and must have rich, acidic soils to ensure success, and is subject to chlorosis (yellowing) of the foliage in alkaline soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This species is native to parts of North America.

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