For an attractive hedge, choose tall species of holly (Ilex spp.). Hollies have glossy, deep green foliage and berries that draw birds to your yard. Before purchasing hollies for hedges, determine your site's soil type, sunlight exposure and U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone and choose species that thrive in these particular conditions. Most hollies grow slowly, so choose one of the few species that grow more than 12 inches per year.
For dry sites, choose drought-tolerant hollies. The "Nellie R. Stevens Holly" grows to 35 feet with a 15-foot spread. Unlike most other hollies, it can produce fruits without cross-pollination. This holly thrives in sun to partial shade and a range of soils. Nellie R. Stevens are hardy in Zones 6 to 9.
The lusterleaf holly (I. latifolia) grows to 25 feet tall and 12 feet wide. This densely foliaged shrub has long-lasting red fruits and glossy leaves. Lusterleaf hollies tolerate heat and prefer well-drained soil. They are hardy in Zones 7 to 9.
If you live in an urban area, choose hollies that tolerate air pollution. The American holly (I. opaca) generally reaches heights between 15 and 30 feet. This holly grows from 12 to 18 inches per year and produces red and yellow berries. They require protection from winter winds and prefer full sun to light shade and acidic soils. American hollies are hardy in Zones 5 to 9.
The longstalk holly (I. pedunculosa) grows to 18 inches per year. Most plants grow to 15 or 20 feet tall. Longstalk hollies produce red berries on drooping stalks and, unlike most other hollies, don't have spiny leaves. Plant in sun to light shade and moist, acidic soil. The longstalk is hardy to Zone 5.
Many hollies prefer full sun, but some tolerate partially shaded sites. The San Jose holly (I. x aquipernyi "San Jose") grows up to 18 inches per year. A hybrid of English holly (I. aquifolium) and Perny holly (I. pernyi), the San Jose grows to 25 feet tall and has dense, lustrous green foliage. The San Jose is hardy to Zone 6 and prefers well-drained soil.
The possumhaw (I. decidua) grows from 12 to 18 inches a year. This holly is hardy in Zones 5 to 9 and grows to 18 feet tall. One of the few deciduous hollies, the possumhaw's foliage turns yellow in fall. Plant in acidic, wet soils. Hedge-appropriate cultivars include Red Escort, which has especially dense foliage.
Choose sun-tolerant hollies for sunny sites. The blue holly (I. x meserveae) grows from 12 to 18 inches per year to heights of 12 feet. This holly has blue-green foliage and purplish bark. Cultivars for hedges include Mesdob, which has especially dense foliage. Blue hollies thrive in moist, slightly acidic soil.
Red hybrid hollies grow to 15 feet with 8-foot spreads. These hybrids have purple to red new foliage that turns dark, glossy green. They grow well in sun and well-drained soil and are hardy in Zones 6 to 9.
- Michigan State University Extension; Ornamental Plants plus Version 3.0; November 1999
- University of Connecticut; Plant Database of Trees Shrubs and Vines; Mark H. Brand
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Holly; Marjan Kluepfel, et al.; May 1999
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension; Shrubs; Erv Evans