Ilex opaca

American Holly, Ilex opacaflowers attract many different native bees, butterflies and pollinators. It is considered one of the most popular trees in the world.  The tree is ridiculously tough. It is widely known as the hardiest broadleaf evergreen. The tree is not picky in terms of soil requirements.

American Holly will grow in nearly all soils and has a slow to medium growth rate.  It reproduces the “old fashioned way;” male and female flowers are produced on separate plants (dioecious reproduction).  At least one male pollenizer of the same species blooming at the same time must be nearby — within 40 feet — in order to pollenize three females and produce the beautiful red berries we all love.

It is an important fall and winter food source for many birds and even mammals such as wild turkey, quail and songbirds who feed on the berries and use the shrub as winter shelter.

For best success in growing American holly, buy a balled and burlapped or containerized plant rather than a bare-root specimen, which may not transplant as well.  Avoid digging up holly specimens from the wild, as they don’t ordinarily transplant very well. The planting site should be sunny or partially shady.

Site it well, since it can live for more than 100 years. In colder, northernmost areas of its range, American holly does best if planted in a site that provides shelter from the wind in winter.  Frigid, drying north winds can desiccate the leaves, causing them to turn brown, and kill the twigs and branches. While this can stress the tree, it will produce new leaves in spring.


SPECS: Native Name: Algonquin; Genus: Ilex; Species: Opaca; Plant Type: Tree; Life Cycle: Perennial; Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade; Height: 25′ — 60′; Spread: 30′; Plant Spacing: 35′ — 40′; Bloom Time: April — December; Bloom Color: Green, Red; Advantages: Low maintenance, Medicinal uses, Nitrogen fixer; USDA Zone: 5 — 9; Attracts: Beneficial insects, Butterflies, Honey bees, Songbirds; Tolerant: Deer, Dry soils, Salt, Shade, Wet soils; Plant Community: Competition is fierce for plnats under trees: These might work. Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea), Gaultheria procumbens (Checkerberry), Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby st. johnswort), Mahonia repens (Creeping barberry), Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry) & Viburnum acerifolium (Mapleleaf viburnum).;