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Growing American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Holiday decorations may have you contemplating growing an American holly in your landscape. Here is some information to help with your decision.

American holly is native from Massachusetts to Florida and west to Missouri and Texas and is hardy in zones 5 to 9.  The red berries persist into winter and attract songbirds while the flowers attract butterflies and honeybees.  

You’ll need at least one male for every 2 to 3 female plants for fruit production. This slow-growing holly can eventually reach 15-25 feet.

Grow American holly in evenly moist loamy acidic soils with full sun or partial shade. Select a location sheltered from drying winds.

There are more than 1,000 cultivars on the market. Select one known for producing large brightly colored fruit every year with dark green leaves and a dense growth habit.

A bit more information: American holly has been able to survive minus 20 and minus 25-degree temperatures when grown in a protected location. Buy locally grown American holly plants whenever possible. These plants tend to be regionally adapted, so you’ll have greatest success when buying plants raised in growing conditions similar to yours.

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