Skip to content

free shipping on most orders over $125 - $7.95 FLAT RATE ON ALL OTHER ORDERS!


American Holly

Scientific Name: Ilex opaca

Foliage: Evergreen broadleaf 
Height: 40 to 50 feet
Spread: 18 to 40 feet
Shape: Upright

Noted for its spiny, evergreen leaves and bright- red berries which mature in autumn. This holly is pyramidal in youth with branches to the ground.

Plant Needs
Zone: 5 to 8
Light: Partial shade
Moisture: Wet to moist
Soil Type: Sandy or loam
pH Range: 3.5 to 6.0

Suggested uses for this plant include hedge, screen, and specimen plant.

Planting Notes
Plant in spring using trees which have balled and burlapped roots. Plant one male plant for every 6 to 8 female plants to ensure good fruit set. Requires good drainage and acid soil. Plant in a location protected from wind. Tolerates air pollution. 

Prune in winter, as needed. Use clippings for holiday decorations. Withstands heavy pruning; remove branches at their point of origin. 

Iron chlorosis is a problem in high pH soils. Susceptible to many insects and diseases, including leaf miner, scale, and leaf spot.

Click here to learn how to treat iron chlorosis.

Consult local sources, including historic or public gardens and arboreta, regarding cultivars and related species that grow well in your area.

Cultivars of ILEX OPACA
Over 1,000 cultivars of this plant exist. Desirable characteristics in holly cultivars include: annual bearing, large and bright colored fruits, good foliage, and dense habit. American Holly appears to be regionally adapted. Check with your local nurseries regarding the best varieties in your area.

The male and female holly flowers grow on separate male or female plants. Only female plants produce berries, but male plants must be present to pollinate the female flowers and ensure fruiting. 

This material was developed by Carol Ness as part of the Interactive Design and Development Project funded by the Kellogg Foundation. Mary Miller, Project Director. Diane Relf, Content Specialist, Horticulture. Copyright 1989 by VCE.