UACES Facebook Holly
skip to main content


March 24, 2018


I have three Japanese holly bushes with red berries planted soon after we built our house 48 years ago.  They are now 12 ft. high and 12 ft. in diameter.  They have grown up under the eaves and over the roof of the house.  When the wind blows they scrape the house.  Can I cut them back to a stump and let them sprout out again.  I don't want to have to pull up the stump as it might damage my foundation.  They are located at three corners of the house.



I don't think they are Japanese hollies, (Ilex crenata) since they have black berries at maturity.  Regardless of which type you have (there are over 300 species) you have the wrong plant for your location, but if it took them 48 years to get that tall and wide, they should be able to be managed with annual pruning, since you don't want to remove them.   Cutting them back that severely is not a regular recommended practice; normally no more than 1/3 of the plant should be cut back.  Why not try cutting them back by half and then keep them trimmed annually?  What is the maximum height you want?  Hollies are tough plants and chances are fair that they will sprout back from severe pruning, but it isn't a guarantee.  But don't you need something green where they are growing? 



Last year our roses died from an attack of Japanese Beetles. We want to replace them with something else. We get afternoon sun and they are in front of our windows so we don't want anything that would get too large.  What do you recommend? 

AnswerI am assuming that you want something with color and that is evergreen since it is along the front of the house, but if you are plagued with Japanese beetles, I assume you live in the northern tier of our state.  There are several choices.  There are large selections of dwarf Abelia that have variegated foliage, will tolerate full sun and bloom with tiny white flowers all summer.  You could also do a mix of some evergreen hollies and boxwoods but then throw in some deciduous shrubs like ninebark--with varieties with purple, orange or green foliage and white flowers in the summer; dwarf fothergilla with beautiful white flowers in the spring and outstanding orange fall foliage; itea with white flowers and red fall foliage and dwarf butterfly bushes.  If you don't live in the northern tier, several varieties of Loropetalum will do well in the southern 2/3 of the state--check varieties because mature size will vary with the variety you choose.


February 24, 2018


I have two deciduous hollies in my front yard. One has berries and one doesn't. I assume this means one is female and the other male. If I dispose of the male will the female not have berries in the future?


 AnswerHollies are dioecious plants, with separate male and separate female plants and only the female plants produce berries.  I would make the assumption that one is female and the other male, but it could also be that one is younger and hasn’t bloomed yet.  You can verify that by checking the blooms this spring.  If there are flowers, the male bloom will have anthers with pollen on them, while the female will have a center pistil in the bloom.  Whether or not removing the non-fruiting one will impact your female will be determined a bit by where you live. If you live in a neighborhood with many landscaped gardens, then chances are good that there is a male holly nearby that could pollinate your female holly.  If you live out in the country and have no other hollies in your garden, then there may not be a male holly near enough to pollinate your female, which would result in no berries. 


January 8, 2018


Is the deciduous holly you wrote about recently the same thing as what I know as Possum haw?  Are they available at local nurseries?




There are actually two different species of deciduous holly plants and unfortunately, common names are used interchangeably.  The two species are Ilex decidua and Ilex verticillata.  Ilex decidua is the plant most commonly referred to as possum haw.  Birds, deer and a variety of small mammals including possums (which could be the source of the common name) are attracted to the fruit. These native hollies have a lot of genetic variability and thus you can find red, orange and yellow berried varieties.  The most common selection we find at local nurseries is 'Warren's Red' but you can also find the orange/red berried 'Council Fire' and 'Byer's Gold' with yellow berries.  Some of the Ilex verticillata varieties in the trade are 'Red Sprite' and 'Berry Poppins'.  Female plants are the ones with the showy fruit which we see along the roadsides right now.


December 30, 2017


I would love your opinion on a foundation planting tree that I could use in front of a tall and hot front window facing south in Conway.  Currently there is a low growing Japanese maple but I would love some shade and relief from the sun.  The tree would actually be in the front flower bed, but the bed is deep so there is room for a medium sized tree.  The tree would sit out in front of the window several feet, and there are azaleas between the tree and window.   I would like to see under the tree, so I visualizing a Dogwood.  If I choose dogwood, which variety would you go with?  Any other suggestions?  I would like a fairly quickly growing tree.  Maybe a river birch, and again which variety?   Finally, any suggestions on digging out the existing maple?   It’s been there ten years.  



It sounds to me like you need a tall but narrow growing tree.  There are many fastigiate species of trees on the market.  Fastigiate is just a fancy word for columnar shaped trees.  The most common one seen across the state is the Slender Silhouette sweetgum tree. While it does form sweetgum balls eventually, it has great fall color and grows 40 feet tall but only 4 feet wide.  There are also columnar ginkgo – ‘Princeton Sentry’, columnar pin and English oaks and a few columnar maples.  I think they would be better choices than a dogwood since it is a hot facing window and dogwoods prefer to be understory trees.  They also tend to grow almost as wide as tall.  River birch trees get larger than you would expect and need a lot of water.  As to removing the old maple, you might consider hiring a tree spade operator to remove the old and plant the new. 


August 5, 2017


We were told to thin out our hollies so they would grow straight up.  However, now they looked chopped, mangled and ruined.  What should we do at this point?  Should we 'top' them some?  OR, cut them down to the 'nub'...and pray they start sprouting at the bottom.  OR, should we wait later in the year to do any pruning?  There is a large nice Crape Myrtle in the background whose 'trunk' the hollies hide, 
and I wasn't too enamored about the hollies being there anyway.  What should we do, Hon? I read your column religiously, and I would appreciate your advice.



When did you prune them?  This is not a great time to do anything else—we are in the hottest/driest time of the year and there would be very little plant recovery.  I hope you pruned them earlier this spring.  It is sort of like a bad haircut.  It will take time to grow back in.  I think selective thinning is a better idea than shearing.  At this point, I would do nothing until next February.  See where new growth begins and then selectively thin next spring, fertilize and water and gradually you will get them back in line.  If you don’t like them, you can also cut them to the ground next spring and see what happens.


January 21, 2017

QuestionI recently transplanted a deciduous holly from my pasture to my yard.  The plant is loaded with berries, but I have been told that a male must be nearby in order to expect berries again.  Is this true, and if so, where do I find a male plant to insure berry production?


AnswerDeciduous hollies are like other hollies in that there are separate male and separate female plants.  Since yours has berries, it is obviously a female.  Since it is fruiting where it is, you have male hollies in the vicinity, so it should continue to set fruit.  There are typically so many hollies in the landscapes that a male is near enough to pollinate the females.


January 7, 2017


I was reading in "Birds and Blooms" about the Winterberry Holly (Ilex Verticillata) about it was a good bush for berry food for birds.  The range shown for this holly did not include Arkansas, but did extend to areas further south but east of Arkansas (in Alabama).  My question is, will it thrive in Arkansas, and are there any pet concerns (poisonous to dogs)?



Ilex verticillata is one of two species of deciduous hollies--the other being Iex decidua. They are quite hardy throughout Arkansas.  Both of these hollies are quite showy in the winter landscape if they are female plants.  As with all hollies, there are separate male and separate female plants, and only the females can produce fruit.  The Ilex verticillata plants typically have more berries than the I. decidua varieties, but both are beautiful.  All holly berries contain a toxin that if eaten can cause stomach upset in children and pets, but consider how many hollies grace our landscapes.  Although I am sure it has happened somewhere, I have never heard of a dog dying of holly poisoning.  While mild to moderately toxic to humans and pets, it is a food staple for birds and other wildlife.

 December 24, 2016

QuestionI probably have tea scale on some of my holly bushes. When would be a good time to treat them and also they need trimming. When is a good time for that?


QuestionDuring the winter months there is very little active growth.  The best time to use the systemic insecticides would be in spring to early summer.  If you have blooming hollies (those that set berries), you may want to wait until after their blooms have finished to make sure there is no residual effect to the bees. Most of the products have been labeled safe to use around bees, but timing can be important. Light trimming can be done any time, but severe pruning (more than 1/3) should be done from late February through April to allow ample time for recovery.


December 17, 2016


I have a potted small holly seedling which I plan to leave as is until spring and then plant in the ground.  Can you give me any tips on how to care for it this winter?  How often should I water and should I use any fertilizer? It is in a five gallon pot outside on the corner of my deck.

AnswerWhy not plant it now?  Is there a reason you need to wait until spring?  It would be much hardier planted in the ground than growing in a container.  Hollies are tough plants, but the roots in pots do get colder than those in the ground.   In nurseries, they group the plants together and mulch around them for extra protection.  Watering needs will vary based on natural rainfall, but if it gets dry, do water especially prior to a hard freeze.  If you know where you want the plant to grow permanently, go ahead and plant it.


December 10, 2016

QuestionOur mature holly bushes have a bad case of powdery mildew.  Can you please tell me how to treat it?

AnswerMake sure what you have is powdery mildew and not a tea scale.  I have seen quite a bit of scale on hollies this year and the look can be similar.  I have had several gardeners over the year treating for a fungus when in fact they had an insect.  Take a picture of the problem and send it to me or your local county extension agent, or take a plant sample in to your local county agent.  Correct identification is key in controlling any problem.


October 8, 2016


I have a holly bush coming up in a flower bed. When can I dig it up to transplant to another area? 


The best time of year to transplant shrubs or trees is when they go dormant, normally November through February. While they are dormant, they go through less shock of transplant.  Young seedlings that pop up can be moved when you see them, but avoid summer months when it is hot and dry as it would be hard to keep them watered enough to help them re-establish.


October 2016


I would like to plant a winterberry holly.  I don't see them very often in the Little Rock area so I am questioning if they do well here. I am particularly interested in a dwarf variety called Red Sprite with Jim Dandy as the pollinator.


Outstanding choices!  The winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is one of our deciduous hollies – the other is Ilex decidua.  They both do very well in Arkansas.  You can see the native ones up and down the roadways each winter, with their clusters of red or orange berries.  They do sell deciduous hollies at most nurseries, but they often get overlooked until they shed their leaves and expose their berries.

  July 9, 2016


I recently pruned a large Holly back from 10' to about 6'. There was a lot of deadwood inside but the outer portions have always looked very healthy. It's been about 10 days now and still no sign of new growth. I probably pruned later than I should have. Should I be concerned?


Be patient.  Plants typically don’t grow in leaps and bounds when it is hot and dry.  That is why we recommend doing severe pruning in late winter to early spring to catch the natural rebound of new growth.  For now, water, water, water and wait for the growth to come back

 July 2, 2016


I recently reduced two 10' tall bushes down to about 6'. One is a yaupon holly and the other predominantly privet. I know it might have been better done 2 months ago but tell me if you think I'm still ok having done my trim before the technical beginning of summer. Both bushes were very healthy. I essentially took them both down to their 2010 height. I have increased their water a bit and applied osmocote liberally


I would hope the privet would die, but unfortunately that probably will not be the case. Privet is one of our most invasive plants in Arkansas and I would love to eradicate it.  Luckily for you, yaupons are pretty tough plants too.  Normally when we do severe pruning, we like to get it done in early spring to allow time for the plants to recover before hot, dry weather hits, which slows down new growth.  I would keep watering while it is dry to help them recover, but I think you should be ok.  One application of fertilizer is all you need—and I prefer to go on the light side, versus the heavy side, especially when it is as hot as it is.  

  February 1, 2016

QuestionI would love to know about the trees that are currently full of red to orange berries and have no leaves. These are seen along the roadsides and in the woods. What is the name of the tree and can they be found in the local nurseries?

AnswerThe plants in question are deciduous hollies and they are commonly available at local nurseries. There are two species—Ilex decidua and Ilex verticillata.  Read the tag as to berry color—they have orange, red and even yellow berry types, as well as mature size.  They do come in either male or female varieties. Only the females produce berries.  

 January 23, 2016


How would you compare the growth rates of Nellie Stevens holly and a full-size yaupon holly, like Pride of Houston?  Would the yaupon have any chance of keeping up, or does it grow a lot more slowly?



They are both great plants for Arkansas landscapes.  The growth rate is similar, but the plants have some big differences.  The leaf size of the Nellie Stevens is probably three times that of a yaupon and the shrub is denser overall.  Side-by-side they would have a different texture and growth habit, with the Nellie Stevens being larger and a bit faster growing.

 November 28, 2015

QuestionI had two trees removed from my back yard early last summer; a Bradford Pear (Fire Blight) and a Maple (Slime Flux?)  Now I'm looking for replacement trees. I really don't need shade as this is in the East yard, therefore, I would prefer something not to exceed 20 - 25 feet tall.  I'm leaning towards a holly but will consider other evergreens. The soil I'm dealing with is heavy orange clay.  In fact the Maple I removed had a lot of surface roots. Thank you for any suggestions? 


The maple would have probably had surface roots even in decent soil—that is the nature of maples.  I am assuming you want something evergreen.  Some options include:  Little Gem magnolia, Foster holly, Burford holly, deodara cedar, cherry laurel or one of the larger junipers.  If it doesn't have to be evergreen, I love the sweetbay magnolia or even one of the tulip magnolia trees, redbuds or dogwoods.

 November 14, 2015


I would like to plant privacy hedge/shrubs that will screen the property next door.  I read your response recently about thorny eleagnus but I will need these shrubs to reach a height of 15-25 ft. and get thick.  I don’t think the thorny eleagnus will reach the height I desire.  Do you have any advice on what I should plant?  The area gets about 6-8 hours of sun.  Is a willow hybrid or non-spreading bamboo a consideration?.

AnswerA hybrid willow is fast growing but probably will get too tall and be somewhat weak. It also is deciduous and most people prefer a screen to be evergreen.  If you can find the clumping—non-spreading bamboo, that is an option, but I think there are better choices.  You could go with one of the smaller growing southern magnolias—Little Gem,  Brackens Brown Beauty, etc.  They will eventually get that tall, and they are dense, but they may be slower growing than you want.  Consider some of the hollies—lusterleaf holly, Nellie Stevens and Burford holly will all grow at least 15-20 feet tall and are evergreen. Cryptomeria, Deodara cedar and Green Giant Arborvitae are other choices. 

 August 2012

QuestionI have two Compacta holly bushes on each side of the steps leading up to our front door. They have been there for 14 years, so they are well established as are the shrubs around them. They are almost square at about 3'x3'x3' Over the last 2-3 years they have become sparse of leaves at the bottom and sides. Is there anything I can do to restore them? I know it will be difficult to replace them.

 AnswerWhen evergreens are pruned into hedges, whether they are tall or short, the top of the plant should have a slightly narrower profile than the bottom. If the top is the same size or larger, it shades out the base of the plants and they begin to lose leaves. In late February to mid March next spring, cut them back hard—possibly to 1 ½ - 2 feet and lightly fertilize. They should get the burst of new growth and fill back in, hopefully having foliage throughout the plant. Instead of pruning them into future squares, let them have a more natural shape, but keep the tops narrower.

March 2012

QuestionWe are searching for replacement evergreen trees where dead Leyland Cypress had been removed from our backyard. They had been a screen between our house and a neighbor. We would like to have something that won't get over 10 to 12 feet in height, that will remain green year-round and that will allow flowering plants between them and the front of the bed and still provide the screen against the chain link fence between houses. The bed is approximately 25 - 30 feet in length and 8 - 15 feet wide. The trees will face the South (our house faces East) so will get at least 6 hours of full sun daily. We would appreciate your suggestions for that space. We have seen so many evergreens labeled "emerald green arborvitae" but according to the information can grow as high as 60 feet and 6 - 8 feet wide. Can those that are said to grow so tall be trimmed back in height as they grow? Thank you for any information to assist us in making our decision.

 AnswerIf all you want is a plant that gets 10-12 feet tall, then choose a plant that has that as its maximum height. Especially if you plant something like the green giant arborvitae that can reach 60 feet tall, you will have to constantly prune, which makes a large hedge a constant work in progress. Some better choices include the Nelly R Stevens holly, cleyera, winter honeysuckle, or even one of the loropetalum varieties. Some varieties grow taller than 12 feet, others much shorter.

March 2012

QuestionWe have just built a new pool and it turned out much higher than expected so we need privacy OVER the 6 ft fence as we are almost looking over the fence into neighbors yard. We have a very small yard and were thinking we would almost have complete back full with pool and patio and plants. There is 53 inches between fence and concrete around pool on one side and 36 inches on other side. Rest is connected to house and porch. I would like to know what you would suggest to fill this space in that will grow up over the fence for privacy. We were thinking about Bamboo and someone suggested oleander. We would be open to other suggestions also if you have any thoughts.

 AnswerDefinitely not running bamboo-or your neighbors won’t be your friends any more. I would assume you want tall plants, and if you have tall bamboo, it can run as far away from the base as it is tall—20 foot tall bamboo can send up suckers 20 feet away. Clumping bamboo would be an option, but your space is quite narrow. Since your space is limited, you want tall vertical plants. Oleander is an option if you live in central or southern Arkansas, but it would not be reliable further north. The downside with oleander is the blooms will drop in the summer, which will be quite close to your pool and it is not fast growing in Arkansas and it does spread fairly wide. What about a holly such as Nelly R. Stevens, Foster, Savannah or Lusterleaf holly. Another option would be to build a trellis and let a vine grow up it to give instant privacy, and not take up an abundance of space.

March 2012

QuestionMy home in Colony West faces west and the front beds are empty now that all of the original azaleas have passed away. They were planted in 1970 and extended along the 60 foot front of the bed. There are four large Pine trees directly centered in the front and one very large Pine tree at the southern most part of the front of the house. At the north end of the house is a rather large Holly bush (tree), perhaps standing 10 feet tall. Originally, Holly was placed at each end of the front bed to anchor the beds and the Azaleas residing along the length of the bed. I need your recommendation on a plant/tree/shrub selection and your ideas regarding planting, soil addition, etc. I need something hardy that will last. Also, do you think the plants/shrubs/trees sold by the big box stores like are very safe? I think a local nursery would be safer in the long run regarding the viability and health issues of native plants, etc.

 AnswerYou do need a basic grouping of evergreen plants so that you have something that is green year-round, but adding some deciduous plants can give you great color in the summer. While your yard faces west, it sounds like the pine trees shade it from intense sun. If you like azaleas, by all means replace some. There are numerous plants that you can choose from and diversity is good. I like to have something blooming in every season. Possibly sasanqua camellias for winter, azaleas and loropetalums for spring color and Itea and buddleia for summer blooms. Take pictures of your front yard and do a sketch of your yard on graph paper. Take that to your local nursery and they can help you plan how many plants you need and can give you other options. You don’t have to buy everything from a nursery, but if there are specific plants or varieties you want, independent nurseries usually have better selections.

October 2011

QuestionI would like to plant a winterberry holly. Because I don't see them in the Little Rock area often, I wonder if they do well here. I am particularly interested in a dwarf variety called Red Sprite with Jim Dandy as the pollinator. 

AnswerOutstanding choices! The winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is one of our deciduous hollies – the other is Ilex decidua. They do very well in Arkansas. You can see the native ones up and down the roadways each winter, with their clusters of red or orange berries. They do sell deciduous hollies at most nurseries, but they often get overlooked until they shed their leaves and expose their berries.      

January 2012

QuestionWinter Color 2012


AnswerSo far this winter has been an improvement over last year, with weather almost too mild at times. But our winter is far from over, so keep your fingers crossed. Typically when we think of garden color, we think spring and summer, but there are a number of plants that can add winter interest and color. From true flowering plants to colorful bark, leaves and berries, there are options for all gardens. Take inventory of your own garden, and if you need color, consider some new additions. Shrubs are the backbone of the landscape. While we do want evergreen shrubs to be the foundation of the landscape, deciduous plants can also add seasonality and rhythm to a garden. While green is of course a color, there are variegated plants and some that take on their own winter hue. Nandinas can be a nice green addition to the garden during the growing season, but they really shine in the winter landscape with red or burgundy foliage. Standard plants also have a nice berry display. Some folks dislike nandinas since they can spread by seed into wild areas, but they are a versatile plant, and usually pretty tough. Many female hollies are loaded with berries this year, and the fruit is a nice addition to color. The deciduous hollies are really showing off with berries on full display without being masked by foliage. But there are some plants that actually bloom in the cooler months. There are several species of camellias that are common throughout central and southern Arkansas, and with hardier introductions, now being planted even in the northern tier of the state. Camellia sasanquas are in full bloom now, and some of the Camellia japonica’s are beginning to bloom. There are other hybrids available as well. These plants do best in full morning sun, and afternoon shade. They like acidic soil conditions and even moisture in the summer—not tolerating heavy, wet soils very well. Flower colors run from pinks to reds and whites, with some bi-colors as well. There are several species of mahonia that shine in the shade garden. Oregon Grape Holly is a common name, but these plants are setting flowers now, which will be open in a few weeks. The fragrant yellow blossoms will be followed by robin’s egg blue fruits. A new introduction is the Soft Caress mahonia, which looks almost like a small palm plant. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is already blooming in many parts of the state. Often mistaken for forsythia, which won’t be in bloom for a month or so, winter jasmine is a low growing plant with cascading branches covered in bright yellow flowers. Even though it does lose most of its leaves in the fall, the branches stay green. It has started blooming a bit earlier than normal this year. Some less known shrubs for winter interest include wintersweet and winterhazel. Both of these shrubs bloom in the winter and are highly fragrant. Winter sweet, Chimonanthus praecox is related to our common sweet shrub (calycanthus) and has smaller, fragrant flowers and is the first to bloom in January. By February, the winterhazel, Corylopsis platypetala is blooming. This plant is in the witchhazel family and while it has small flowers they cascade together in a small cluster. Both plants will grow in partial shade, and while not too exciting the rest of the season, can give you great fragrance and interest in the winter garden. Another fragrant winter shrub is winter honeysuckle. Its tiny white flowers may not stop traffic, but it can add fragrance to your home and garden.        

November 2011

QuestionWe need some suggestions or ideas for an evergreen barrier that will get to 3-4 ft tall in pm sun on the south and west side of our yard. We want to run this about 100 ft long. Water is no problem. Types and spacing ideas would be greatly appreciated.

 AnswerThere are a wide range of plants that stay in the 3-4 foot range including compacta hollies, loropetalum—both green leafed and purple leafed (check variety height), Indian hawthorne, boxwoods and even nandinas. All will take full sun. For a denser hedge, stagger the planting in a zigzag pattern instead of in a straight row.

November 2011

QuestionCan you identify the plant in this picture? I've seen many of them around. They are usually in fence rows, or under utility lines. "Planted" by birds, I imagine. Is it some kind of holly? It does lose its leaves, (but you can tell from the picture that they are still on it now) and just the red berries remain through most of the winter months. It's really pretty with snow on it. This particular shrub is in our backyard and I would like to buy some more.

 AnswerThe plant in question is a deciduous holly. There are actually several different species—with the two most common in our area being Ilex decidua (commonly called Possumhaw) and Ilex verticillata (commonly called Winterberry). Improved cultivars of I.decidua include ‘Byers Golden’ with yellow fruit, ‘Council Fire’ with orange fruit and ‘Warren’s Red’ with red fruit. Improved cultivars of I. verticillata include ‘Red Sprite’, ‘Winter Gold’ and ‘Winter Red’. The plants are very carefree and really brighten up a winter landscape.

April 2010

QuestionI have a holly specimen that has three points on the end of the leaves and a cluster of white flowers along the stems but no berries and it never gets any berries. I suppose that is because of a lack of male plants around!

 AnswerOr could your plant be a male? Look closely at the flowers. Do they have yellow stamens or simply a green ovary in the center? There are usually plenty of hollies—both male and female in the neighborhood, that it is isn't always required to have a male in your yard to get berries on your female holly. If your plant is male, then you will never see berries.

May 2010

QuestionWhat shrub would you recommend as a hedge in the Cammack Village area? I'd like to create a living screen to hide a shed & work area in the backyard. The shed sits at the back of the property which is fairly narrow & deep like a rectangle. What vine would you recommend to use for a small arbor which located just out the back door of the house on the same property?

 AnswerIs the area shaded where the hedge will be planted? If so here are some good choices: wax myrtle, illicium (Florida anise), cherry laurel and Sweet bay magnolia--this last one is not evergreen. In sunny conditions you can use Little Gem magnolia, one of the hollies- Foster, Yaupon, Lusterleaf, Nelly R. Stevens; or eleagnus. For the vine, you could use a mix: trumpet honeysuckle, clematis, akebia and some annual vines: moon flower morning-glory, cypress vine and hyacinth bean.

February 2010

QuestionWe would like to screen our yard from residents of a motel next door to us. We need the fastest solution but will have to weigh the cost factor when making a decision. I’ve read that Blue Spruce grows well in Arkansas and has a good conical shape when planted as a screen, but it is slow growing and doesn't transplant so well when more mature. Do you have suggestions for us?

AnswerColorado blue spruce is ok in the most northern tier of Arkansas, but even there can struggle with the heat and humidity of our summers. It is relatively slow growing and I would not think inexpensive. For fast growth, and a mature large plant, consider: Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’ - arborvitae or Prunus caroliniana ‘Bright ‘N Tight – Cherry laurel. Another tall growing albeit slightly slower growing evergreen is the Japanese cedar Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ or ‘Ben Franklin’ are two large cultivars. Then there are several hollies which make nice screens: Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ – Burford holly, I. x attenuate ‘Fosteri’, ‘East Palatka’ or ‘Savannah’ and Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’. Depending on space, you could also grow the southern magnolia- Magnolia grandiflora. The standard variety gets massive, both in height and width but there are several slower growing smaller cultivars including ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ and ‘Little Gem’.

June 2008

QuestionWhat is the best time to prune holly bushes? (Prune fairly hard, not just a haircut.)


AnswerHollies can be lightly shaped in any season, but for severe pruning –more than one third, I would suggest pruning in late February through mid April to take advantage of the burst of spring growth so they can fill in more evenly and faster.

June 2009

QuestionWe have a very unique, 25 years or so old yaupon holly (trimmed and shaped many times) on a terrace with a row of azaleas. The yaupon has "gone ape" among the azaleas, sending out seedlings or sprouts at the soil line which are outgrowing the azaleas. If we can protect the azaleas, can we use Roundup (or your choice) to try to kill them out without affecting the tree? Would painting full-strength Roundup do any good where we cannot spray the foliage and cut back to the ground? We hope to not lose the tree -a conversation piece.

 AnswerI think your best bet, while not the easiest, is to dig up the sprouts and/or seedlings. If you knew for sure they were coming up from seeds, then a herbicide might work, however they could be root suckers which are attached to the mother tree and could damage it as well. Make a cut beneath the soil line where the plants are coming from the ground line up, mulch and watch for reappearances. Since it is a standard yaupon, they can outgrow your azaleas quite easily.

April 2010

QuestionI have a holly specimen that has three points on the end of the leaves and a cluster of white flowers along the stems but no berries and it never gets any berries. I suppose that is because of a lack of male plants around!

AnswerOr could your plant be a male? Look closely at the flowers. Do they have yellow stamens or simply a green ovary in the center? There are usually plenty of hollies—both male and female in the neighborhood, that it is isn't always required to have a male in your yard to get berries on your female holly. If your plant is male, then you will never see berries.

April 2010

QuestionAre there shrubs (besides azalea, rhododendron, and camellia)that will grow well under pine trees?


AnswerPines tend to have a high enough canopy that most shade and partial shade tolerant shrubs do well. Cleyera, aucuba, fatsia, hollies and boxwoods are all possible choices, but there are numerous others. Soil acidity can be a long-term concern under pines, but most of these plants are pretty tolerant.

July 2010

QuestionOur beautiful Chinese Photinia (30 ft. tall, crown 25 ft. in diam.) has died in spite of our efforts to save it with fungicide. It was not only a focal point, but the screen between our windows and our neighbors. We need to replace it with an evergreen shrub or tree that will eventually fill that space as gracefully. Any suggestions?

AnswerThere are several possibilities. Cryptomeria plants grow quite large at maturity but can be slow to get started. A common name is Japanese cedar. There are numerous cultivars and size varies based on which you choose. Another possibility is one of the hollies--lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia) is fast growing and I think fairly graceful in central and south Arkansas. Nellie R. Stevens holly is fairly fast growing but will not get near as tall as your photenia. As far as graceful, I would look at a deodara cedar. Some cultivars will grow way taller, but others can fit your size.      

April 2010

QuestionI have a holly specimen that has three points on the end of the leaves and a cluster of white flowers along the stems but no berries and it never gets any berries. I suppose that is because of a lack of male plants around!

 AnswerOr could your plant be a male? Look closely at the flowers. Do they have yellow stamens or simply a green ovary in the center? There are usually plenty of hollies—both male and female in the neighborhood, that it is isn't always required to have a male in your yard to get berries on your female holly. If your plant is male, then you will never see berries.

April 2010

QuestionAre there shrubs (besides azalea, rhododendron, and camellia) that will grow well under pine trees?


AnswerPines tend to have a high enough canopy that most shade and partial shade tolerant shrubs do well. Cleyera, aucuba, fatsia, hollies and boxwoods are all possible choices, but there are numerous others. Soil acidity can be a long-term concern under pines, but most of these plants are pretty tolerant.

November 2009

QuestionI am interested in planting a privacy hedge between me and an untidy neighbor. Would you compare Russian Olive versus Nellie Stephens Holly that you have recommended in the past. Where can I see a Nellie Stephens Hedge and also purchase it?

AnswerRussian olive is much more wild and wooly than Nellie R. Stephens Holly. Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a form of eleagnus, but it is often considered an invasive plant in most states other than in the south, where it can struggle to grow well. A better form of Elaeagnus would be Elaeagnus pungens, which has broad evergreen foliage. It has some wild days where it throws up tall shoots that need management, but it makes a nice hedge. In either instance the holly would be much more manicured and well behaved. Most nurseries in Arkansas should have the holly.      

February 2009

QuestionLast summer I sprayed water on a foster holly in full sun. About a third of the leaves turned brown and fell off. It is now about 3 feet tall. About two thirds of the holly has healthy green foliage. The other third of the holly has bare branches. Should I just leave it alone and let it grow, or should I prune the bare branches? Will it ever develop a pretty shape or should I consider replacing it?

 AnswerWater alone did not cause the plant to drop leaves. Was there some chemical in the water, or fertilizer? If water alone could do that, every time it rains we would have problems. I would wait until right before new growth begins--later this month or early next month, and prune out the dead wood. You can selectively prune some of the nearby living branches at a bud that could direct new growth where you need it.

July 2006

QuestionWe have a six foot Needlepoint Holly planted last fall by a landscape company. It has lots of berries but no new growth this spring. The leaves that it has are at the tips and not near the trunk. Can fertilizing it bring out new growth near the trunk? Or, should we insist that it be replaced?

AnswerSometimes a holly will set copious amounts of fruit, and when it does, it directs all of its energy into the berries, and not into new growth. It is also its first year of growth, so it should be getting acclimated and setting out roots. I never judge a plant in its first full season in the ground. Also, be aware that the buds at the tip of the branches are dominant, so that is where you will see new foliage. If the end buds are cut off in the spring, it should direct energy into the buds further along the stems which should encourage new growth within the interior of the bush. A light shearing now of the tips could encourage more sprouting within the interior of the bush, but we are in the beginning of the hottest and driest days of the season, so new growth may be at a minimum. At this stage in the growing season, I am not so certain I would do much pruning. Keep it watered for now, and do some corrective pruning next spring.

May 2006

QuestionSeveral years ago we installed an 8 foot privacy fence across our back yard since a church parking lot backs up to our property. The church building itself rises up behind the parking lot and church goers can look down into our backyard. Additionally, we planted several yaupon hollies in front of the fence to allow their top bulk to extend above the fence to further block the view from the church. The yaupons are approx. 2 feet from the 8-foot fence. At the present time, the top of the hollies have grown approx. 2-4 feet above the top of the 8-foot fence so that the limbs are naturally growing out toward and against the fence...My instincts tell me to trim the lower half to two-thirds of the lower limbs in order to allow the trees to put all their energy in growing upward and outward above the top of the 8-foot fence. Could you give me some instructions on trimming the limbs? What time of year should we do this? Bottom line, we want the trees to grow to their maximum height above the 8-foot fence and further block out the view of the church.

AnswerIf you aren't concerned with the lower limbs, you can cut them off at anytime. Many folks have tree-formed yaupon hollies. They will re-sprout often on the lower limbs, but you can direct more energy upwards by trimming. You can trim at any season, but for maximum growth, try to get the trimming done in the spring to allow for that burst of energy. Do so now before mid June. Lightly fertilize with a slow release high nitrogen fertilizer and keep them watered, and they should do well.

April 2006

QuestionI have several large overgrown hollies and boxwoods in my yard. I know I was supposed to prune them in February, but time slipped away and they didn’t get done. Have I waited too late? I need to cut them back by at least one third, but I don’t want to look at dead looking twigs all summer either. What is my best bet?

AnswerThere is still plenty of time. Severe pruning - taking off more than one third, can be done any time from late February through April. You can even get by with pruning into June, but by mid to late June, temperatures start rising and rainfall usually decreases, thus we see less new growth. Pruning while we are still at the peak of the growing season allows the plants to have a quicker recovery rate. Boxwoods in particular often look pretty barren following even light pruning, since they have all of their leaves on the outside of the bush. Water when dry and one light application of fertilizer should help in recovery.

March 2005

QuestionI need your help. We have cut down most of our red-tips because of the fungus. I have fought it for so long and now it has spread to all of them and we had so many. Now we want to replace them and we don't know what to put there. We would like something that grows well with no disease problems. I thought you might have some suggestions.

AnswerRedtop photenias have really been hit hard by the leaf spot fungus and are dying across the south. You are wise to stop fighting it, and replace. There are numerous options. You can use Nelly R. Stephens holly, Foster Holly, Elaeagnus, Green Giant Arborvitae, winter honeysuckle, and cherry laurel, just to name a few. Visit with your local nursery and look at the plants, and see which ones you like best.

December 2005

QuestionWe are building a new home and the backyard is surrounded by other homes. We want to plant some trees for privacy. We are considering Leyland cypress. A friend told me they read in your column that you recommended another tree because lelands get lots of disease. Here are some of our considerations: we want the tree to be- fast growing, easy to care for, an evergreen, and not very expensive because we need lots of them!

AnswerWhat we are talking about is a screening or hedge plant. They can be considered large shrubs or small trees. Leyland cypress has suffered from disease in Arkansas. Some other choices include cherry laurel, Green Giant Arborvitae, Nellie R. Stevens Holly and Lusterleaf Holly. These should be readily available in the state. As to prices, shop and compare. Size of plants can make a big difference. If you have the time, allow them to grow into their space.

December 2005

QuestionI have a three gallon needle point holly bought in 2004 in which the leaves have fallen off of it. It is planted in a sunny location and I am using Miracle Gro plant food to water it. I am watering it about twice a week but there are still no leaves on it? I have also applied mulch around it. The holly was planted by a commercial nursery so there was good soil preparation. Do you have any suggestions? I also have two five gallon Nelly Stevens holly that had red berries when they were planted by a commercial nursery in March, 2004. There have been no red berries on it since. Do you have any suggestions?

 AnswerNeedle point hollies are evergreen plants, so if all the leaves have fallen off, there is a major problem. Did you start the watering and fertilizing after the leaves fell off, or before? What is the drainage like in the hole where it is planted? Hollies usually are fairly resilient plants, so you need to find out what is happening before attempting any replacement. As for the Nelly Stevens hollies not having berries, keep in mind that these plants bloom in the spring and set the berries after bloom from cross pollination. The berries should be forming now, but will not turn red until closer to fall. It is not unusual to not get good berry set the year of planting, as they are getting established. This year, I would have hoped for some fruit. Check them more closely. Make sure they have ample sunlight--at least 6 hours, and that you are not pruning off the potential blooms and or fruit in the spring.

 All links to external sites open in a new window. You may return to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture web site by closing this window when you are finished. We do not guarantee the accuracy of the information, or the accessibility for people with disabilities listed at any external site.

Links to commercial sites are provided for information and convenience only. Inclusion of sites does not imply University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's approval of their product or service to the exclusion of others that may be similar, nor does it guarantee or warrant the standard of the products or service offered.

The mention of any commercial product in this web site does not imply its endorsement by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture over other products not named, nor does the omission imply that they are not satisfactory.