How to Grow Holly Trees in East Texas


The American Holly (Ilex opaca) grows naturally in the humid forests of East Texas. It has dark green, spiny leaves, and the female plants produce an abundance of red berries in the fall. The American Holly typically grows to 30 feet tall with spreads of 15 feet but can be larger in ideal conditions. Although it prefers acidic, moist soil, the American Holly is adaptable to all parts of East Texas. Male and female plants are needed for berry production. The ratio of male to female plants to ensure pollination is 1 to 5.

Step 1

Choose holly trees for transplanting that are less than 3 years old, as older, larger trees grown in containers may have a damaged or deformed tap root.

Step 2

Plant American Holly trees in full sun and well-drained soil, although the tree can tolerate some shade. Plant American Hollies 6 to 10 feet apart if you are growing them as a hedge, or 15 feet or more apart if you are planting individual specimens.

Step 3

Dig a hole with a shovel that is twice as wide as the rootball and deep enough that the American Holly tree is planted at the same level it was previously planted.

Step 4

Fill the planting hole with water as you add the native soil back into the hole. Do not add any amendments, as the tree will adapt to the soil conditions of East Texas. Cover the root base of the with 2 inches of mulch to equalize soil moisture levels and control any competing weeds.

Step 5

Run a stream of water the width of a pencil from a garden hose for 30 minutes over the root base every two weeks during periods of no rain for the first year the tree is planted.

Tips and Warnings

  • American Holly trees should not have their roots crowded in the pot, but should have strong lateral or side roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Holly trees
  • Shovel
  • Mulch


  • USFS: American Holly
  • American Forests: The Festive American Holly
  • USDA: American Holly
Keywords: american holly, holly berries, hollies texas

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.