Saturday, September 17, 2005
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist
Shrubs to Use, Hollies”
Autumn is the best time to plant shrubs in San Antonio and
hollies are among the best shrubs for our area.
There are many choices of size and shape.
Most hollies have both sun and shade tolerance, are good xeriscape
plants, and do not have pest problems.
Chinese Holly is an evergreen mounding shrub with kelly green foliage. It makes a good groundcover or foundation
shrub that reaches about two feet tall and three feet around. In my neighborhood the deer do not eat the
plant because of the spines at the end of the leaves. The spines are also useful if you want to direct traffic without
causing severe bloodletting.
yaupon holly is another good foundation shrub for sun or shade. The leaves are small and more gray green than
Chinese holly. The shrub has
a compact disciplined growth habit.
Dwarf yaupon holly grows relatively quickly to three feet and
may eventually reach four feet on good soils.
Deer do not usually eat dwarf yaupon holly.
next larger holly, consider dwarf burford.
It reaches five feet tall on our normal poor San Antonio soils,
but may grow to six feet on good soils.
The leaves are dark green and shiny.
Dwarf burford holly has attractive red berries in winter that
are readily eaten by the birds after they are softened by the cold.
This versatile evergreen holly is useful as a tall foundation
shrub, short hedge, or specimen plant.
The leaves have a small spine, but unfortunately, the spine
is not prominent enough to discourage the deer.
In my neighborhood they strip the shrubs during dry weather,
especially if they are irrigated.
burford holly has larger leaves than the dwarf version and grows to
eight or nine feet tall. It
makes an excellent tall hedge or specimen plant in the sun or shade. The shrub is also a favorite nesting site for
cardinals and other shrub nesters.
want to consider a holly for a small tree or tall shrub, consider
the standard yaupon holly. It
can grow to 25 feet tall. It
has the same shade tolerance as other hollies, but does better if
it gets more sun. Female standard yaupon hollies provide a bounty
of small berries that are attractive to the birds. Most nursery offerings are females. Check for berries when you buy them. The standard yaupon also reacts well to pruning and has even been
espaliered against a wall or fence.
The plant sculptures you see at amusement parks are often standard
There is a deciduous holly that is closely related to the
standard yaupon, possomhaw holly.
It is used best as a specimen shrub because of the spectacular
arrangement of tiny red berries arranged on the horizontally positioned
branches. The possumhaw usually
grows to seven tall and does best in full or at least a half-day of
Hollies are very drought tolerant once they are established.
One of the reasons it is best to plant them in the autumn,
however, is that they have time to grow some roots before the roots
must support the plant through a droughty summer. The root system is slow to develop so be careful
to apply the irrigation water directly at the original root ball for
the first summer. It also
helps to place two – four inches of mulch over the root system. As you apply water this winter (if necessary)
however, be alert to the fact that a drought tolerant plant with a
limited root system confined to a planting hole in a heavy soil is
susceptible to root drowning if the roots stay soggy for more than
a few days at a time. Do not
overwater or underwater newly planted hollies.