Prior to learning how to grow your own holly, you need to know the choices you have out in the horticulture world. Below is a list with a brief description of each holly that you can find in your local nursery but regardless of which one you choose make sure to plant them in full to partial shade.
- Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)-This holly variety can be found under the name box-leaved holly. This name comes from the fact that it resembles the boxwood. It does well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-8 and can reach a height of 4 to 10 feet. It does well not only as a specimen plant but also as living fence or as topiaries.
- Myrtle-Leaved Holly (Ilex myrtifolia)-Common names for this plant are myrtle dahoo, myrtle holly, dahoo, myrtleleaf holly, and myrtleleaf dahoo. It grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7-10 and matures to a size of 40 feet but when grown in a domestic environment typically grows to 15 to 25 feet.
- Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)-This holly can be found under the names Christmas berry, yaupon, and evergreen holly. It does well in salty areas and can reach a mature height of 30 feet.
- Lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia)-Other names for this plant include tarajo or tarajo holly. This plant does well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 9. This holly can reach the mature height of 25 feet. The leaves of this variety are very lustrous but the berries on this holly are not as showy as those on other varieties.
- Inkberry (Ilex glabra)-This holly has several different names, which include evergreen winterberry, bitter gallberry, gallberry, dye-leaves, and Appalachian tea. The leaves on this variety do not have spikes and the fruits are either black or white verses red. This variety does well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9 and reaches a mature size of 8 feet.
- Hawaiian holly (Ilex anomala)-This holly is native to Hawaii and matures at 40 feet. The fruit is a purple- black verses the traditional red color.
- American holly (Ilex opacadune)-Common names for this holly include hammock holly, dune holly, and scrub holly. It grows well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9 and matures at a height of 60 feet. This holly can be found in holiday decorations and is used as a substitute for holly in areas where English holly will not grow.
- English holly (Ilex aquifolumt)-This holly is also called the Oregon holly, hollin, common holly European holly, and Christmas holly. It survives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 9 and matures at a height of 50 feet. It is cut and used as a holiday decoration.
- Carolina holly (Ilex ambigua)-This holly can be found in nurseries under the names ambiguous winterberry, possum holly, and sand holly. The later name comes from the fact that this plant does well in sandy soils. It can be found in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7-9. It matures at a height of 20 feet. This holly is a deciduous species that drops it leaves easily and in doing so reduces winter interest.
- Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta)-Common name for this holly is horned holly, which comes from the little spikes that line the upper edge of the leaves. It does well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 9 and matures at a height of 25 feet. Uses for this holly include as a specimen plant or as a living privacy fence.
- Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata)-At nurseries, this plant can be found under the names swamp holly, winterberry, winterberry holly fever bush, possumhaw, brook alder or coralberry. It does well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 9. It matures at a height of 12 feet, which makes it a wonderful landscape plant but this holly spread easily through suckers. This later fact can make it a pest.
- Finetooth holly (Ilex serrata)-The common name for this holly is Japanese common winterberry. It is a deciduous holly that produces yellow fruit. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zones that this plant does well in is 5 through 8. It matures at a height of 15 feet.
Now that we have covered the varieties available to you, what are your choices of propagation if you do not want to purchase a plant? Hollies can be propagated by seed or cuttings. Both techniques will be covered but keep in mind that starting a holly by seed is the least successful and takes a lot of time.
Holly Propagation through Seed
As stated before, growing hollies from seeds can be a challenge and can take up to three years before germination occurs. But if you want to get a start of a unique holly and do not want to take a cutting, starting holly from seed is the way to go. To begin the process, you will need a few supplies that are listed below.
Flat, washed and sterilized
Sand or peat moss
Holly seeds that were harvested in the fall
Bowl of cold water
The steps are easy. If the seeds have not been harvested yet, go out and pick them. As you gather the berries, you will notice that there is a waxy coating on the berry. This coating along with the fruit will need to be removed. This is done by soaking the berries in cold water and working off the waxy coating along with the fruit’s flesh with ones fingers. Next, fill a sterilized flat with sand or peat moss. Once that is done, plant the “seeds” ¼ of an inch down and cover with soil. Top the flat with burlap and place outside.
Leave outside for at least a year before checking for life. On average, you can expect to see something in about 18 months but as stated before it can take up to 3 years.
If you are fortunate to have some of your seeds germinate, plant them in a container. In about 3 years, your seedling will be ready to be planted in the ground.
Holly Propagation through Cuttings
Since there are evergreen and deciduous hollies, two techniques will be described that should be done only in the winter. For evergreen varieties or those that keep their leaves year-round, take a cutting that is 7 inches long. Once you get it back to the garden shed, take another cut making sure to remove about ¾ inch, remove all the leaves, and dip the cut end in a rooting hormone.
On the other hand, if you are using a deciduous variety repeat the process but keep in mind that you will have no leaves.
Once you have your cuttings, dig a hole that is 12 inches deep in a sunny location. Take your cutting and arrange them so that all the cut ends are going in the same direction. Tie them together with garden twine and place in the hole so that the cut ends are up. Cover up with soil making sure that there is no holly showing.
If the holly cuttings have rooted, you should see growth in the spring. Once you see little hollies breaking ground, dig up and plant in your chosen location.
Now that you know how to grow your own holly, the next step is to learn how to care for your holly.
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