Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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.


Ilex decidua

Ilex opaca

Ilex verticillata

 

 

More Pollinators Questions

Hummingbird Bushes for Broken Arrow OK
August 27, 2014 - I am looking for bushes that attract hummingbirds. I live in Broken Arrow, OK. Can you recommend some?
view the full question and answer

Is Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay) a major nectar source for honeybees?
January 31, 2015 - Is the Sweetbay Magnolia a major nectar source for honeybees?
view the full question and answer

Making a pollinator garden
August 11, 2014 - Hello, I have a ditch right by my house and I want to turn it into a pollinator garden using native plants. My problem is, right now it's so full of weeds that we have to mow those down so soon. For ...
view the full question and answer

Flying insects attacking yucca flacida in Wilmington NC
June 11, 2010 - How do I treat flying insects from eating the flowers on my Yucca Flaccida shrub.
view the full question and answer

Spots on bluebonnets from Godley TX
April 21, 2012 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants! I'm trying to separate rumor and folktales from fact when it comes to bluebonnets in Texas. I notice that bluebonnet blossoms have a double white spot on the center petal tha...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.