Consider treelike hollies for the landscape

John Young, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  6/26/2009 8:03:33 PM

Sustainable Landscape News From LaHouse Distributed 06/26/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Hollies are right behind azaleas, gardenias, camellias, sasanquas and Indian hawthorns in popularity among evergreen shrubs, and they may even be more popular than some of those.

We usually think of hollies as shrubs, but some hollies are treelike in their growth habit. These tree-form hollies are becoming increasingly popular as specimens, foundations and screens in Louisiana landscapes.

Savannah holly (Ilex x attenuata Savannah) is one of the most common of the tree-form hollies. It makes a beautifully shaped tree. The form is narrow and open with a pyramidal to columnar shape. An individual tree can reach 30-35 feet at maturity with a width of 8-10 feet.

Savannah leaves are slightly spiny and are a dull, dark green. They seldom get as dark green as other hollies. Savannah hollies are known for their heavy clusters of red berries that persist through the fall and winter months. This is one of the fastest-growing of the tree-form hollies.

The American holly (Ilex opaca) continues to be a favorite, but it is more difficult to locate at garden centers. This holly is native to the vast majority of the United States and has served a variety of uses throughout its history. This broadleaf evergreen reaches heights of 35-50 feet with a spread of 15-25 feet.

American hollies grow more slowly than the other tree-form hollies. Their berry production is less reliable than other hollies but normally good on female plants. The wood of American holly has been used for furniture manufacturing. American hollies also are good for attracting wildlife.

Another tree-form holly to consider is East Palatka (Ilex x attenuata East Palatka). Plants reach heights of 30-45 feet with a spread of 10-15 feet. Rounded leaves have one spine on the tip. Trees have a moderately tight, pyramidal shape. Berry production is similar to that of Savannah, with the majority of production in the upper part of the plant canopy. Uniformity is excellent from plant to plant within a large landscape area. Growth rate is slightly slower than Savannah.

Hollies do best in full sun, although American holly is often found in a shaded or partially shaded environment in their native habitat. Soil selection is important. Sandy or silt soils are preferable to clay, and a slightly acid soil pH is recommended.

Tree-form hollies make nice street plantings. They also do well for background screens and can be added to a landscape for wildlife enhancement.

We have much to select from in the holly group. Try some of these species for their many attributes.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. Go online to Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods for additional information.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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