En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
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
1 rating

Sunday - January 03, 2010

From: Eufaula, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pollinators, Compost and Mulch, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Duplicate of English holly for Eufaula OK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I wish to have a shrub that would duplicate the red berries and foliage of English holly. Tolerance of cultivation is also desired.

ANSWER:

We're not sure we can duplicate the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, but there is another member of the genus Ilex, Ilex opaca (American holly), native to Oklahoma, that will give it a good run for the money. 

Now, here's the tricky part. You indicated you wanted the red berries and foliage. The American holly has the berries and foliage, but both it and the English holly, and indeed all members of the genus Ilex, are dioecious. That means that while both the male and female bloom, only the female bears berries. And, in order for the female to have berries, there must be a male of the same species within about a 40 ft. radius, that blooms at the same time. The reason this is tricky is that if you go into a plant nursery in the Spring, all the hollies will be blooming. If you go into that nursery in the Fall, they will all have red berries on them. Because only the females have berries, and most people want the berries, the nursery will be stocked with female plants which have been pollinated by males before they were shipped to the nursery. For the nursery trade, propagation of the holly is by taking cuttings, which means that every plant is identical to the parent plant, or clones. If the parent plant was female, all the offspring will be female, too. So, if you buy a holly with red berries on it, it blooms in the Spring, and then has no berries in the Fall, what happened? You have a female but no male of the same species blooming at the same time in the area, and no berries.

According to one source, the male American holly will have 3 to 7 flowers in a cluster, while the female flowers are solitary.  You could probably wander around, counting flowers in clusters, or maybe you can trust your nursery to assure you get a male plant, as well as the female plants. We understand there is one cultivar of the American Holly, 'Jersey Knight', that are all male, and good pollinators. 

For further information on the American holly, follow the link above to our page on that plant, find out how big it ordinarily grows, and what light requirements it has. Note that it likes a somewhat acidic soil with very good drainage. We would suggest you prepare a hole for each plant before you purchase them, and mix in compost for both drainage and adding acidity. Pine bark mulch is also good to apply over the root area and will add to the acidity of the soil. Oh, and one more thing. You said you wished to have tolerance of cultivation. No holly likes for its roots to be disturbed, so if by cultivation you mean you're going to be applying the hoe around that plant, don't.

Compare these pictures from Google of English holly with the pictures of American holly below from our Native Plant Image Gallery.

 

From the Image Gallery


American holly
Ilex opaca

American holly
Ilex opaca

American holly
Ilex opaca

American holly
Ilex opaca

More Shrubs Questions

Foundation plants unlikely to provide good shade for rattlesnakes in TX
August 28, 2011 - I would like to plant native grass around my new home in the country near Mason, TX. My concerns are the rattlesnakes that are common here, and if they could "hide" in the native grasses since they ...
view the full question and answer

Replacing non-native boxwood in Austin
October 03, 2011 - I have a large maze garden, possibly boxwood, originally planted in the 1950's, in Austin, Texas. About 1/3 of it has died out, probably due to drought, heat and age. Should I attempt to replant ju...
view the full question and answer

Beauty Berry Without Berries.
October 08, 2014 - I have a beautyberry that has no berries. I have some 3 year old bushes that are not producing berries. They are in semi-shade and I fertilize them. The bushes are green and growing but no berries....
view the full question and answer

Dog-proof shrubs in Woodmere NY
May 21, 2009 - My chocolate lab thinks that shrubs are the same as "fetch" sticks..she's ripped out my azalea, rhododendron, andromeda and a few others I'm not sure of the names. She's a great pup (almost 1 yr...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen hedge for Dallas-Fort Worth area
May 18, 2010 - Our red tip photina hedge is slowly succumbing to black spot and we'll need to replace it within the year. (Yes, I now understand red tips come in two varieties: diseased and about to become disease...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center