American Holly (Ilex opaca) in the Ilex Database

Common names:
Give a thumbs up American Holly
Give a thumbs up Christmas Holly

Botanical names:
Ilex opaca Accepted
Ilex opaca var. opaca Synonym

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Shrub
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Partial or Dappled Shade
Water Preferences: Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 5a -28.9 °C (-20 °F) to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 9b
Plant Height: 20 - 50 feet (6.0 - 15.0 m)
Plant Spread: 10 - 20 feet (3.0 - 6.0 m)
Leaves: Unusual foliage color
Fruit: Showy
Edible to birds
Other: Fruits only occur on female-flowered plants, provided appropriate male flowered plant is present for pollination.
Fruiting Time: Late summer or early fall
Late fall or early winter
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Other: American Holly is dioecious - male flowers and female flowers occur on separate plants.
Flower Color: White
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Spring
Late spring or early summer
Uses: Windbreak or Hedge
Provides winter interest
Will Naturalize
Edible Parts: Fruit
Wildlife Attractant: Bees
Resistances: Salt tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Stratify seeds
Sow in situ
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Cuttings: Tip
Pollinators: Wasps
Moths and Butterflies
Various insects
Miscellaneous: Dioecious


Celebrating Winter Interest!Celebrating Winter Interest!
February 14, 2015

Pine cones, seed heads, winter bloomers, colorful red berries, and much more! Let's kick off Winter Interest Week with a look at the most popular plants in our database that give some kind of interest to our gardens in the winter. We also introduce a new gallery option in our database for winter interest, with bonus acorns this week!

(Full article9 comments)
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Posted by SongofJoy (Clarksville, TN - Zone 6b) on Dec 9, 2012 8:40 AM

This is a slow growing evergreen here. Both male and female plants are needed to produce the red fruits that are eaten by numerous songbirds.

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Posted by robertduval14 (Mason, New Hampshire - Zone 5b) on Apr 17, 2013 7:14 PM

Delaware's state tree.

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Posted by sallyg (central Maryland) on Dec 14, 2018 6:21 AM

Very common in the woods around me, which may be why I regularly find seedlings under my trees in natural, leaf litter areas. Some I have transplanted are now about four feet tall and I hope to see flowers soon to know if they are male or female.

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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Ilex opaca male plant by ViburnumValley Dec 30, 2012 11:58 PM 7
Evergreen shrub in the shade, what is it? by Clearsky Dec 31, 2018 9:24 PM 8
What are the two tall trees? by Paul2032 Dec 27, 2018 8:11 PM 22
weed, now tree by gardenglory Aug 15, 2018 8:43 AM 12
Shrub and grass suggestions by nubby1082 Apr 3, 2018 12:06 PM 33
What am I? Wild plant found. by PamelaLynn77 Oct 1, 2017 11:09 AM 6
Bee Friends And Other Garden Guests - Chapter 8 - 2017 by wildflowers Aug 2, 2017 7:29 AM 401
West Tennessee this am by Booster Jan 28, 2017 7:05 PM 2
Merry Christmas to All - 2016 by RickM Jan 3, 2017 9:07 PM 43
Need help with this! by willk97 May 25, 2016 8:08 PM 4
Yardening in the Mid-Atlantic by Eric4home Mar 17, 2019 1:27 PM 2,743

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