Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - April 17, 2008

From: Baltimore, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Pollinators, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Failure of hybridized red hollies to grow
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have 2 red hollies planted in my yard about 20' apart, 3 years now. They won't grow. Do I need to have a male with them?

ANSWER:

The native North American members of the genus Ilex (holly) that will grow in the Baltimore area are Ilex decidua (possumhaw), Ilex opaca (American holly), and Ilex verticillata (common winterberry). None of those seemed to be the "Red Holly" you were referring to, but we discovered that there a number of cultivars that have been hybridized from the native hollies that have come to be called red hollies. Here is an article from the Mississippi State Office of Agricultural Communication on Red Holly. When you have a hybridized plant, that makes it a little difficult to determine what its normal growing habit would be, so we really don't know why your hollies are not growing as you expected. We can tell you, however, that it has nothing to do with the gender of the plants. The gender of the plants comes into play when you are seeking to have berries on your hollies. Only the females produce berries, and there will be no or very few berries if there is not a male pollinator in the area. The standard wisdom on that is that there should be one male plant (of the appropriate flowering time) in close proximity to three to five female plants, to ensure good pollination and fruit set.

But to get back to your original question, why are your hollies not growing? Since they are no doubt hybrids of a native Ilex, cultural requirements should not be that different. If you will follow the plant links above to the descriptive webpages from our Native Plant Database, you will learn that the holly is a very slow-growing plant. They also prefer moist, well-drained soils, and are tolerant of shade. It looks like the prescription is for patience. If you don't see any obvious indications of insect or disease problems, it's likely that the hollies are just taking their sweet time getting adjusted to the conditions in your garden, and will grow when they're ready.

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Need a shrub to conceal a privacy fence in Knightdale, NC.
August 03, 2011 - Could you recommend a medium-sized shrub/bush (max height of 6-7 feet) to plant along a privacy fence (purpose is to conceal the fence from the street view per HOA)? I live in Zone 8.
view the full question and answer

Container plants for part shade in Bee Cave TX
June 18, 2013 - Dear Mr Smarty Pants, I am looking for plants that will thrive on my covered porch in 3 tall planters. These are meant to help me block an unattractive view out my living room window, so they must...
view the full question and answer

Moving a volunteer holly from Springfield IL
October 11, 2010 - When would be the very best time to move a volunteer holly? I would say it is 3 years old, it stands about 5 feet tall, shaped like a very nice tree and it keeps its leaves. Thank you. Karen
view the full question and answer

Shrubs for privacy in wet area in Ohio
July 13, 2011 - I am looking for flowering shrubs for Ohio that reach 8-10 feet and can handle wet feet. I am trying to avoid building a wall for privacy and would like to use flowering shrubs instead.
view the full question and answer

Diseased non-native red tip photinias from Richmond VA
April 08, 2014 - Our red tip trees have a while substance on the bark at the base of each tree..look like some kind of fungus or mold, but we don't know how to get rid of it. Please help.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.