Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Holly-days!

by Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension

Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine
We all know that there are many beautiful holiday plants to enjoy this time of year. This year I would like to focus on a group of plants that not only bring us pleasure, but also provide something for our wildlife- hollies. There are several native hollies that we can grow here that provide food and habitat for our wildlife while also providing decoration both outside and in. Holly fruits are a favorite winter food for many birds and mammals, providing seasonal nutrition for our feathered and furry friends. In addition to providing a food source, holly shrubs and trees also provide habitat for many birds.

While the most important benefit of these plants is enjoying them outdoors in their natural state, they can also be used as cut greens in holiday decorations (the evergreen varieties). Keep in mind that hollies are dioecious plants: the male and female flowers are on separate plants and female plants produce berries. If you are looking for berries for holiday d├ęcor you will want to make sure you have some female plants. Also, many of the dwarf varieties do not produce berries.

If you don’t already have hollies in your landscape you may consider planting them now for next year. Hollies prefer part shade but most will tolerate full sun, they prefer acidic soils, and they all require a well-drained soil. Here are a few suggested native hollies:


American Holly, Ilex opaca. This is the holly most traditionally associated with the holiday season. It has spiny leaves and red or yellow fruit. Click here for more info.

Fruit of Ilex opaca

Foliage of Ilex opaca


Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine. This holly makes a great specimen or street tree. It even has another seasonally appropriate common name- Christmas Berry. Click here for more info.
Fruit and foliage of Ilex cassine
Ilex cassine













Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria. Depending on the variety you choose this can be a small shrub or a small tree. Click here for more info.
  
Fruit and foliage of Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria ’Dodds Cranberry’




 











These hollies, and others, would make great additions to the landscape-and great gifts for those on your holiday shopping list too. You will enjoy them and the wildlife will thank you. Happy holly-days everyone!