Holly shrubs grow in all parts of the country. Evergreen or deciduous, tall or short, holly shrubs are different enough for the gardener to be able to find one that fits his landscaping plan. Holly shrubs will be either male or female and both are needed in order for the female plants to produce berries. The average ratio is one male plant for every three or four female. Birds and small animals will make a meal out of the berries, but the leaves are too sharp for larger animals to enjoy.
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 8. The plant is native to Japan and grows from 6 to 10 feet tall and the same or greater width. Dark green leaves measure 1 to 2 inches long. White flowers bloom in May and June. Female plants produce black berries, 1/4 inch in diameter. Plant Japanese holly in full sun or partial shade and a soil that is moist and well drained.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is also known as Michigan holly and is a native of eastern North America. Plant in full sun or partial shade and a soil that is moist to wet. The shrub grows to 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide with dark-green leaves and cream-white flowers. Male plants produce flowers with yellow anthers. Female plants produce flowers with a green knob in the center followed by green berries in the summer that turn red in late August to early September. Winterberry is hardy in zones 3 to 9.
Gallberry (Ilex glabra) is also known as inkberry, bitter gallberry, evergreen winterberry, inkberry holly and Appalachian tea. The plant grows from 4 to 8 feet tall with oval leaves that are dark green on top and lighter underneath growing from 1 to 2 inches long and up to ½ inch wide. Small, cream flowers bloom in the late spring growing in clusters on the male plants and singly on the female. The female flowers produce tiny green berries that turn black in the early fall and remain on the plant through the winter. Gallberry is native to the eastern and south-central United States, likes full sun, partial or dapples shade, and soil that is moist to wet. The plant is hardy in zones 5 to 10.
Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) is also known as possumhaw holly, deciduous holly and winterberry. The shrub is deciduous, growing from 15 to 30 feet tall. The plant produces dark-green, oval leaves that turn yellow in the fall. White flowers bloom in March, April and May. The female flowers are followed by red berries growing in clusters. Plant possumhaw in full sun or partial shade and a moist soil. The plant is hardy in zones 5 to 8.