Beyond American Holly
American holly, Ilex opaca, is the quintessential holly featured in holiday ads and decorative wreaths. It is a good gardening plant offering evergreen screening and red berries for winter interest. The genus Ilex has many options for the gardener to consider for evergreen appearance and winter interest.
As gardeners know, hollies are dioecious, meaning you need a male and female plant to produce berries. An exception to the rule is Ilex ‘Nellie R. Stevens’. I. ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ will set fruit, but not seed, without a male plant. Thus as a gardener you will always have a red berry display. In addition to this nice feature, it is a fast growing plant. We have successfully used it for screening around loading docks and trash bins on campus.
Speaking of male pollinators, our current favorite is Ilex x koehneana ‘Ajax’. This gentleman has attractive green leaves with little winter damage, and uniform pyramidal shape. An introduction from the U.S. National Arboretum, it is fast growing and serves well as a screening plant in addition to pollinating the ladies.
To add some variety to the berry colors in your garden, take a look at Ilex x attenuata ‘Longwood Gold’. A selection from Longwood Gardens, I. ‘Longwood Gold’ has attractive yellow berries. Lovely upright pyramidal form, this vigorous grower will add diversity to your holly collection and allows for a unique holly display during the holidays.
Explore the complete offering of hollies in the garden in our James F. Frorer Holly Collection, an Official Holly Arboretum recognized by the Holly Society of America.