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Common Name: Maryland Dwarf American Holly      Latin Name: Ilex opaca 'Maryland Dwarf'      Size: 2 (min) to 5 (max)
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Plant Facts
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Ilex opaca 'Maryland Dwarf'
Maximum Height: 5 feet

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Category: EvergreenShrub
Family: Aquifoliaeae
Genus: Ilex
species: opaca
Cultivar: 'Maryland Dwarf'
Size: 2 (min) to 5 (max)
Size Description: small spreading Evergreen
Notes: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest Plant of the Week: December 9, 2012, 2012
Ilex opaca – American Holly

The plant of the week theme for December is plants I enjoy for the Christmas holidays. Last week’s plant was Nandina ‘Firepower’. This week it is the American Holly- Ilex opaca. American Holly is a classic plant for decorating around the house. The cut sprigs of Holly with berries are perfect for adding to wreaths, swags, and around candle centerpieces. The tree itself makes a great winter display out in the garden as well. Birds love the protection of the sharp edges of the evergreen foliage. The bright red berries are a welcome sight especially with a fresh coating of winter snow.

American Holly is a medium sized evergreen tree growing 20-30 feet tall. Hollies are dioecious, meaning there is a female plant that has berries and a male plant that has no berries but pollinates the female plant. If you have a male American Holly nearby, you would only need to purchase a female holly. How would you know? Many times you can see if other Hollies are fruiting in your neighborhood. If you want to make sure you are getting pollination purchase both a male and a female holly. This also goes for the shrub Hollies as well.

American Hollies prefer a deep, rich, low pH, well-drained soil. In Cincinnati you will see American Holly doing well in older established neighborhoods with good, rich, undisturbed soils. A new subdivision where the soil has been removed or the soil is very thin does not make a good planting site for American Holly. American Holly likes being planted in the understory of very large trees or with some protection from the hot afternoon sun and away from strong winter winds.

American Holly can have two problems. One is the Holly Leaf Miner. This is easy to see if you know what to look for. The leaf miner makes small irregular mines that can be seen on the leaves. If your Holly has this problem there will be higher than normal leaf drop and the plant will be thin. Follow your State University recommendations on control methods. Timing of control will be important. The second problem is often a pale green look to the holly. This could be either poor fertility in the soil or too high of a pH and the iron needed for good green leaves is locked in the soil and unavailable to the plants. A good fertilization program is needed when this occurs.

Some of my favorite cultivars are ‘Judy Evans’, ‘Merry Christmas’, and a yellow fruited variety called ‘Canary’. If you love seeing American Holly, Louisville, Ky. has some of the best displays. Yew Dell Gardens is the former home of the late Theodore Klein who was one of the best growers of American Holly. The second is Bernheim Forest and Arboretum just south of Louisville Ky. Theodore Klein helped start this collection donating many of the original plants from his nursery to the late Buddy Hubbuch who was then the horticulturist at Bernheim. Locally Spring Grove Cemetery has some beautiful specimens throughout the grounds. Keep your eyes out for some beautiful American Holly this Christmas season. Consider planting one of the many beautiful cultivars this spring in your garden. If it doesn’t fit consider donating one to your school, church or your Local Park and share the beauty!

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Characteristics: star rating Recommended star rating Winter Interest
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Plant Images and Specimens
Picture of
Location: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
Photo Credit: Tony Nold
Season: winter
Location: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest Po box 130 Clermont KY 40110
Specimen: 650
Ilex opaca IlexopacaMarylandDwarf.JPG
Location: Bernheim Arboretum
Photo Credit: Steve Foltz
Season: March
Ilex opaca IlexopacaMarylandDwarffoliage.JPG
Location: Bernheim Arboretum
Photo Credit: Steve Foltz
Season: March
Location: Washington, DC 300 New Jersey Ave SE Washington DC 20515 [Latitude: 38.890601620000000 Longitude: -77.027346520000000] Specimen: 8132
Ilex opaca plantplacesimage20151017_175234.jpg
Location: Washington, DC 300 New Jersey Ave SE

Ilex opaca plantplacesimage20151017_175245.jpg
Location: Washington, DC 300 New Jersey Ave SE

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