Bulbs For Southern Gardens

The bright berries of American Holly (Ilex opaca) are ideal for seasonal decorations. The greatest threat to the plant is people harvesting its branches to sell at Christmas.

Plants, especially evergreens, have long played a role in celebrating pagan and religious events and holidays. In particular, holly and ivy are interwoven as an important part of the holiday traditions and in carols. Ivy doesn’t grow well in Vero Beach except as a potted plant, but hollies are often overlooked as an attractive addition to your landscape – they’re good for screening and they offer excellent habitat for birds. See the sidebar on page 100 for a list of hollies (both trees and shrubs) that are native to our area, and plant a few to celebrate the holidays and beyond.

Almost all hollies are dioecious, which means that the tree or shrub will bear either male or female flowers but not both; it is the female trees that bear those attractive berries. (Nurseries should label whether a holly is male or female – and be sure there is at least one male tree in the neighborhood or your female trees won’t produce berries.)

Hollies grow best in acidic soil and, once they are established, require little care. In fact, the USDA reports that the biggest destroyer of holly trees is not disease or insects, but people harvesting its branches for the Christmas trade!

Read the entire article in the December 2009 issue

Categories: Gardening