The Q&A Archives: Holly - Male/Female & When to Fertilize

Question: Dear Monrovia,

How can we tell if we have male or female hollies? We have planted eight hollies ranging in age from two years to five years old. The older hollies produce white flowers. On two of the hollies the flowers seemed to dry out. Other hollies have produced green berries. Unfortunately, I am not sure what varieties of hollies we have.

Also, when is the best time to fertilize the hollies.

Thank you in advance for your response. The last two times we have emailed, your answers where spot on. Again, Thanks for the Q&A help you provide to new gardeners.

Connie Nardiello

Answer: This is one of those cases for which a picture is worth a thousand words! Both male and female hollies produce flowers but the male flowers dry up and fall off; the female flowers will produce berries. You can tell which are female plants by whether or not they set berries. Males do not; females do. You can also compare the flowers of all the shrubs; Holly flowers have four, or rarely five, small white petals. The male flower has four prominent stamens, each composed of a filament (stalk) that supports an anther. The anthers release sticky yellow pollen. The ovary in male flowers is very small and not functional.

The female flower has a prominent pistil made up of a stigma, style, and a large green ovary. Female flowers may have underdeveloped stamens, but they will not produce viable pollen.

Holly flowers are cross-pollinated by insects such as bees and flies. Pollination takes place when pollen is transferred from the male anther to the female stigma. The female will then produce berries.

Hope this is clear!

As for fertilizing hollies, early spring is best, when they are actively growing. Glad you like the website and are receiving good information in a timely manner.

Best wishes with your garden!

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