Trees and Shrubs forum→Looking for info on dwarf yaupon (ilex vomitoria) holly

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Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 16, 2021 6:27 PM CST
Hi all -- I am new here and not really a gardener. But I just had 2 large, woody, messed up azaleas taken out on either side of my doorway and I am considering what to replace them with. I like the fact that ilex vomitoria is native to my area (TN) and it seems attractive. It a plus that birds like the berries and it also flowers. There is a dwarf variety that seems like it would stay the right size.

I saw on one website that you need a male and a female in order to get berries. Is this true? How do you tell the difference between male and female shrubs? Is this something that nursery people know?

From what I have seen, I need to wait to plant until after the last frost--that will be March sometime probably. So I have some time.

Thanks for any help you can give me!
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Jan 16, 2021 8:06 PM CST
A good nursery should be able to sex your Yaupons, however they are also sold in pots containing one of each growing together. I think you will need to prune occasionally to keep them small: here even the dwarfs can grow into rather large shrubs.
Porkpal
Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 17, 2021 6:08 AM CST
porkpal said:A good nursery should be able to sex your Yaupons, however they are also sold in pots containing one of each growing together. I think you will need to prune occasionally to keep them small: here even the dwarfs can grow into rather large shrubs.

Thanks! There is a good nursery here and I have sent them an email asking about this. I am cool with pruning.

Are there other good suggestions? I am not wedded to this notion. I like the idea of berries. I want something evergreen and not horrifically toxic (so no yew), as I have horses and a few times over the years they have gotten out and been in the front yard, so cannot risk that.

Someone told me about acuba?

[Last edited by pawsplus - Jan 17, 2021 7:45 AM (+)]
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Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
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ViburnumValley
Jan 17, 2021 11:18 AM CST
There are many many good Holly (Ilex sp.) species and selections that thrive in Tennessee; Ilex vomitoria is just one of them.

You should tell us WHERE in TN you are - since it is a very long state east to west, and has an interesting array of growing conditions. From Memphis to Nashville to Knoxville, there are excellent plant collections where you can see these plants in person in various seasons, to evaluate for yourself what qualities you like - or don't.

Of course I'm biased! I long served on the board of the Holly Society of America (http://www.hollysocam.org/), and I will always advocate to "Know and Grow More Holly."

Oak Ridge and Knoxville have arboretum collections of hollies; those are great places to start if you happen to live near there.

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John
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Jan 17, 2021 1:28 PM CST
John, are there other hollies that offer a dwarf variety? Also is the dwarf Yaupon created by grafting onto a dwarfing root stock?
Porkpal
Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 17, 2021 1:54 PM CST
ViburnumValley said:There are many many good Holly (Ilex sp.) species and selections that thrive in Tennessee; Ilex vomitoria is just one of them.

You should tell us WHERE in TN you are - since it is a very long state east to west, and has an interesting array of growing conditions.

I am about 30 miles S. of Nashville, so smack-dab in the middle. :-)

I am really confused about holly berries. Only one sex makes berries but both are needed? So if I got 2, one could make berries and the other could not?? Or what?
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Jan 17, 2021 3:24 PM CST
Yes. Both will bloom and the bees will fertilize the female from the male, and she will make berries. That is why some nurseries sell pots containing one of each. If you bought two of the two-fers, you would have berries on both along with some (male) branches without berries.
Porkpal
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
Region: United States of America Region: Kentucky Farmer Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
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ViburnumValley
Jan 17, 2021 7:51 PM CST
Hi pawsplus:

Smack dab - that sounds like Franklin!

30 miles south of Nashville is halfway to the middle TN nursery industry - McMinnville, Manchester, Tullahoma, Winchester, etc. And those are just a few of the places that I've been to, buying plants.

While you should take a look at the Holly Society website to read up on the lowdown of all things Ilex, I'll add a bit to what porkpal has started.

Most all Holly species are dioecious, meaning that plants either have all female (pistillate, ovaries that become fruit) or male (staminate, with pollen) flowers. Therefore, in order for female flowers to form fruit, there needs to be pollen applied. Bees and other insects do the work of pollination, but there needs to be compatible male and female flowers blooming at the same time in reasonable proximity for good results. I'll hunt up images I have of male and female flowers; these are from Ilex opaca individuals.

Here are male flowers:
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Here are female flowers (note green bump in the middle - that's where the fruit forms):
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Yeah, yeah - not the greatest photographer. You can look for more images online or in the Plants Database.

In nature, the plants occur in similar environments, so having both sexes present is generally accounted for in natural populations. In human-constructed landscapes, that ain't always so. You have to either select named selections of known sexes, or select plants when they are in bloom so that you actually see the flowers, or plant lots of seedlings so that the law of averages works in your favor. U PICK...

Then, from a landscape management perspective: don't apply pesticides that kill the pollinators that you want to do the work for you. And don't prune the flowers off before they bloom, nor after the flowers are pollinated - or you STILL won't have fruit.

My suggestion is to leave the plants alone in your landscape until they start blooming and fruiting. Then, when you understand what is going on, you can start manipulating form, branching, height, width, etc. to suit your tastes. For plants that have evergreen and/or fruiting branches in winter, it's always a good plan to prune at that time, and then use these boughs for holiday decorations. Or volunteer to prune other people's plants...

Some of the hybrid Holly selections are weird and can produce fruit alone. I'm not a botanist or scientist; someone else here (or online research) may be able to 'splain what parthenocarpic behavior is all about. Well known named varieties (well, well-known among Holly enthusiasts) like 'Coronet' and 'Burfordii' are known to fruit heavily without pollination. There are certainly more.

As far as Holly selections that are dwarf or compact: that is in the eye of the beholder. Only the person who wants a plant in their landscape can decide what that term means to them. 'Red Sprite' is a dwarfer or more compact version of Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata). Standard Winterberry Holly plants grow to 6-10' tall and wide. 'Red Sprite' is considered dwarf, but really is just more of a compact grower because it branches more often and growth extensions are shorter. I planted, and eventually removed, a 'Red Sprite' in a public streetscape that had regular pruning that had (under regular irrigation) reached 6' tall and 8' wide. Dwarf is as dwarf does. I've also seen 'Red Sprite' at the nursery of the late Bob Simpson in Vincennes IN, in 2013. While pruned down to 4' tall, a single plant had spread to about 15' feet. Plants keep growing.

Here is 'Red Sprite', refusing to read its press releases...

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John
Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 18, 2021 8:12 AM CST
deleted as it was a repost.
[Last edited by pawsplus - Jan 18, 2021 8:13 AM (+)]
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Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 18, 2021 8:16 AM CST
ViburnumValley said:Smack dab - that sounds like Franklin!

Nope! I'm S. of Franklin and a little west of Spring Hill, in the Middle of Nowhere. Smiling Can't afford to live in Franklin!



Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 18, 2021 8:17 AM CST
porkpal said:Yes. Both will bloom and the bees will fertilize the female from the male, and she will make berries. That is why some nurseries sell pots containing one of each. If you bought two of the two-fers, you would have berries on both along with some (male) branches without berries.

So they are sold together in the same pot and you plant them as one plant?

Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 18, 2021 8:45 AM CST
Oddly, none of the catalogs for the nurseries in McMinnville seem to have ilex vomitoria. Bates Nursery in Nash does though. I will call and find out if they have male/female.
Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 18, 2021 9:15 AM CST
BINGO! Bates only had males (apparently most people don't want berries -- isn't that the whole POINT of holly??!?!), but Gro Wild in Fairview (much closer to me!) has several sizes of both.

I can get two 7 gal females and two 3 gal males and plant them together. Or just 1 male and figure it would get them all, which is what the lady on the phone suggested but I don't want one plant to look more full than the other. So I will see when I get there. Or I could get 3 gal of everything. I want it to look pretty good right away so maybe the bigger plants make sense?

And then I will be out there directing the bees all summer LOL. :-)
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Jan 18, 2021 10:01 AM CST
Let us know what you get.
Porkpal
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
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ViburnumValley
Jan 18, 2021 10:40 AM CST
OK - I've been writing an epistle, and meanwhile my audience has been converted. Oh well. I'm posting this anyway! pawsplus - live long and prosper with your Holly selections.

***************************************************

What? Not raising horses in downtown Franklin?

Yes, some vendors provide male flowered and female flowered plants growing in the same pot. This is effective for pollination and fruiting, at least as a way to start out - especially for display while at the garden center or nursery.

Imagine how this combination will function in the landscape, especially if you are planting these as a specimen on either side of your front door. Come fall, that plant will have fruit on part of "the plant", but not on other parts that belong to the male plant. This isn't the end of the world, but may not be what you expect.

Additionally: many people don't recognize that male Holly plants (of all species) will generally grow faster and/or larger than female selections - because they do not have to put any resources into growing and maturing fruit. This can be overcome by regular additional fertilization of the female plants when fruit start forming (recommended procedure by HSA members). You can also prune the male plants more often. I still recommend thinking about what this will mean in your landscape.

I can think of worse problems than how many male plants and how many female plants of Holly that I have in my landscape, but if you are a beginning or only occasional gardener then these things may not be immediately evident.

If you raise or own horses, though, you probably have a bit more space to grow things than the average 1/4 acre residential lot...

A great solution: decide what kind of Holly you want to see at either side of your front door. Select a couple of healthy female specimens to plant there. THEN, provided you have room elsewhere in your landscape, plant either the mixed male/female plants or simply an additional male for pollination.

Of course, there is a lot of conjecture here since none of us know what your landscape looks like, but this is a pretty straightforward way to address how to use Holly effectively.

Getting into what selections you might want to use: you haven't said how big a plant you want to start with. The Blue Holly series of Ilex x meserveae are pretty common plants, as are the China series. 'Blue Princess', 'Blue Prince' or 'Blue Stallion', 'China Girl' and 'China Boy' - these are good plants that are commonly grown, make handsome foundation plants next to homes, and are eminently prunable. They don't stay small if left alone, but can be managed in the 4'x4', 5'x5', 6'x6' range. There are quite a few other variations in that group these days, and all should be decent performers in middle TN.

Since the door was left open...allow me to reminisce with some more HSA Annual Meeting pictures. The 'Red Sprite' pics above were from the 2013 Annual Meeting, held in New Harmony, IN. The following are from 2014 Annual Meeting at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.

Gearing up for Holly hunting...
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Upshot of a big specimen of 'Nellie R. Stevens'
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Fruit on Ilex opaca 'Galyean Gold'
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A very nice specimen of Longstalk Holly (Ilex pedunculosa)
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John
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
Region: United States of America Region: Kentucky Farmer Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
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ViburnumValley
Jan 18, 2021 12:47 PM CST
Gro Wild is a pretty good nursery. I think Louisville Metro Parks department horticulture/landscape staff have regularly ordered woody plants from them in recent years. That certainly is a good list of Holly selections; you couldn't go wrong with many of them. I think I have all the Winterberry Hollies on that list, and a bunch of the American Holly types. Yaupon just isn't hardy up here in the desolate winter wasteland of the central Kentucky Bluegrass region...

Good luck with the Yaupons that you select. That nursery should be able to give you all the guidance you need. Now, when you are ready to delve into Viburnum sp. - let me know.
John
Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Image
pawsplus
Jan 19, 2021 10:09 AM CST
ViburnumValley said:Imagine how this combination will function in the landscape, especially if you are planting these as a specimen on either side of your front door. Come fall, that plant will have fruit on part of "the plant", but not on other parts that belong to the male plant. This isn't the end of the world, but may not be what you expect.


A great solution: decide what kind of Holly you want to see at either side of your front door. Select a couple of healthy female specimens to plant there. THEN, provided you have room elsewhere in your landscape, plant either the mixed male/female plants or simply an additional male for pollination.

So I can certainly plant the boy plant (LOL) elsewhere. I have 34 acres but it is mostly woods or what passes for pasture, so options are limited. How close does the boy holly have to be to his harem in order to ensure that bees will pollinate them?

Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Image
pawsplus
Jan 20, 2021 8:30 AM CST
I am rethinking this. The nursery I am visiting today only has the REGULAR ilex vomitoria, which get too big. I don't want to end up right back where I was with the overgrown azaleas.

They have dwarf inkberry -- ilex glabra "Gem box." What about those? I know I won't have berries--they don't have sexed ones. But it would stay small and would be green all year, which are my main criteria.
Name: Kim
Black Hills, SD (Zone 5a)
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KFredenburg
Jan 20, 2021 10:05 AM CST
That would work. You can check out the info in the database for the plant you mentioned here:
Inkberry (Ilex glabra Gem Box®)

It would tolerate your zone.
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Name: Elizabeth
Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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pawsplus
Jan 21, 2021 12:05 PM CST
UPDATE! Went to the nursery yesterday and ended up with 2 ilex vomitoria "Taylor's Rudolf." The regular Yaupon just got too big. I was worried about another set of woody, huge plants. These are easy to keep at 3 feet or so. And they looked decent NOW--some of the others were so small now that I worried that things would look crappy for too long. These are rounded and cute and healthy. Bad news is that they are not sexed so I probably will not have berries, but that is OK. They are evergreen and will look good.

Will post pix when I plant them. I may end up getting rid of the other stuff it the beds and <gulp> branch out into perennials. We shall see!

Thanks for all the help!

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