A popular and versatile addition to the landscape, holly (Ilex spp.) Grows in several types, including deciduous, evergreen, tree and shrub forms. There are over 300 known types of holly around the world, although not all are grown in the United States. Chinese holly and Yaupon holly are just two species offering dwarf or compact shrubs using ivy-like leaves and red berries, somewhat like Christmas holly.


The Ilex genus was present in America when the first colonists arrived. The shrub was known to Native American men and women, who preserved the crimson berries and made them into ornamental buttons. The buttons were so popular with several tribes they were employed for bartering. Wood from holly bushes is utilized to make canes, furniture and ornamental scroll work. Holly wood was also stained black and substituted for ebony on some sorts of inlay work.

Berry Production Requirements

Most holly species are dioeious plants meaning that they are either female or male, and each sex creates their own flowers. Only female plants produce berries, therefore bees are necessary to carry pollen from male flowers back to feminine flowers. As long as there are male plants within a 1 1/2 to 2 mile radius, pollination will occur. However, some species and cultivars are self-pollinating. Not all Ilex species are considered shrubs, and in addition, not all that are shrubs create red berries. Those that do range in size from compact or dwarf to very large. Evergreen hollies are found in more temperate climates, typically in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 11. Evergreen varieties include festive winter colour at a moment when, there may not be abundant shade in the landscape.

Chinese Holly Cultivars

“Burfordii” or Burford holly is a compact tree with dark leathery green leaves and plenty of bright red berries. It grows to a height of 12 to 20 feet and spreads to a width of between eight and 10 feet. “Burfordii Nana,” a dwarf Burford holly cultivar is a compact, compact dwarf shrub. With shiny green leaves and red berries, it grows to a height of 5 to 8 feet and spreads equally wide. “Rotunda” is a compact and compact dwarf Chinese hollly. It’s dark green leaves that are covered with spines and creates considerable quantities of red berries. “Rotunda” grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.

Yaupon Holly

“Nana,” a dwarf Yaupon holly, is a small shrub with a compact texture. It’s small dark green rounded leaves displaying a yellowish tinge when they emerge, and creates scarlet-colored berries. “Nana” bushes grow 3 to 5 feet tall and spread to between 3 and 6 feet wide. “Taylor’s Rudolph” dwarf Yaupon is a very compact shrub, only growing 3 to 4 feet tall. Its spread extends a foot more than its height, creating a very compact look with its fine-textured leaf. Leaves are small, and upon emergence, are tinged with purple, maturing to bright green. This compact Yaupon holly also creates red berries.

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