The Q&A Archives: Distinguish Male from Female Holly Bush

Question: I am told you need to have a male and female holly bush in order for them to produce berries. How do I determine if I have one of each? Can I propagate male & female from cuttings taken from one bush?
Thanks for your help!

Answer: It's true - there are both male and female hollies and you need one of each in order to have the female produce berries. You can't tell by looking at the plants whether they are male or female, but you can make the determination by dissecting the flowers. Even this is difficult because the flowers are so small. Nursery-grown hollies begin from cuttings of a positively-identified holly variety. The cuttings are labeled either male or female based upon the gender of the parent plant. It's possible to graft either a male or female branch onto an existing holly to produce berries, or to purchase one of the newer self-fertile hollies, so you only have to have one plant in order to have berries. It is not possible to take cuttings from one bush and change the gender. I think I'd invest in one of the self-fertile cultivars, such as Ilex vomitoria 'Yaupon'.

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