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
Tree
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
Evergreen
Broadleaf
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
Fall
Late fall or early winter
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Fragrant
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
Birds
Resistances: Salt tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Stratify seeds
Sow in situ
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Cuttings: Tip
Pollinators: Wasps
Moths and Butterflies
Bees
Various insects
Miscellaneous: Dioecious

Image

Celebrating Winter Interest!Celebrating Winter Interest!
By dave on 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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Photo gallery:
Location: Western KentuckyDate: 2014-05-14
By Sharon
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Location: Fountain, FloridaDate: 3-30-2012
By gingin
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Location: Longwood Gardens Conservatory, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, USADate: 2019-03-18
By csandt
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Location: Jacksonville, TXDate: 2013-12-26
By dave
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Location: Jacksonville, TXDate: 2013-12-26
By dave
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Location: Fountain, FloridaDate: 2015-10-15
By gingin
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2012-01-31fruit & leaves
By ILPARW
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2012-01-31red fruit
By ILPARW
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Location: Fountain, FloridaDate: 2011-11-26
By gingin
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Location: Western KentuckyDate: 2012-10-16October in zone 7
By Sharon
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Location: Jacksonville, TXDate: 2013-12-26
By dave
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Location: Chester County, PennsylvaniaDate: 2015-01-11full-grown trunk
By ILPARW
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Location: Fountain, FloridaDate: 2011-11-26
By gingin
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Location: Fountain, FloridaDate: 2011-11-26
By gingin
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Location: Fountain, FloridaDate: 2011-11-26
By gingin
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Photo courtesy of: Tom Potterfield
By admin
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2019-05-23full-grown tree
By ILPARW
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2019-05-23male flowers with stamens
By ILPARW
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2019-05-23male flowers
By ILPARW
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Location: Wayne, PennsylvaniaDate: 2009-11-29full-grown tree
By ILPARW
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2010-01-14one tree wide, one narrower
By ILPARW
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Location: Rehoboth Beach, DelawareDate: 2012-01-28full-grown tree
By ILPARW
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Location: Downingtown, PennsylvaniaDate: 2012-01-31full-grown tree
By ILPARW
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Location: Chester County, PennsylvaniaDate: 2015-01-11side of female tree
By ILPARW
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Location: Rehoboth Beach, DelawareDate: 2011-12-30wild trees in woods
By ILPARW
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This plant is tagged in:
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Comments:
Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on May 24, 2019 3:56 PM

Growing up in the Chicago, Illinois region, I knew of only one American Holly tree that was planted near the administration building of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, that was there from the 1920's into the 1990's, only reaching about 15 feet high. The area with silt-clay loam soils with a pH of about 6.8 to 7.1 the most was not great for this species that is native from central Florida to east Texas to southern Illinois into southern New England. I've seen it thriving in the acid, sandy loam soils of central and southern Delaware in the oak-hickory-beech woods and in some spots in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania. It has been planted a good amount along the East Coast and in the South in average to professional landscapes. It is slow growing of a little less than 1 foot/year. (There is a hybrid of the English Holly x the Chinese Holly, the cultivar of 'Nellie Stevens,' that unfortunately in recent times has often replaced this native species because it grows faster of about 1.5 feet/year, but it does not look as good with a varying amount of irregular growth.) The spiny evergreen leaves of American Holly get about 2 to 4 inches long. The greenish-white flowers in spring are either all male flowers on each tree with yellow-headed stamens or all female flowers with a big green pistil. The red berries are about 0.3 inches in diameter in fall and winter, and are an excellent source of food for birds. The bark is gray and smooth, eventually getting some wartiness. This is a most lovely and high quality broadleaf evergreen tree. Many cultivars have been developed, but I mostly see the mother species around.

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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
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