The more than 400 species of holly include dwarf plants 18 inches high and trees exceeding 50 feet. Holly shrubs may be deciduous or evergreen, but all of them have showy, glossy foliage and spring flowers that give way to brilliantly colored berries, according to Clemson University Extension's information specialist Marjan Kluepfel and consumer horticulturist Bob Polomski. Use them as high or low hedges or foundation plantings.
Inkberry (Ilex glabra), an evergreen holly shrub native to the southeastern United States, is hardy to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Standing between 6 and 8 feet high, with a similar spread, it has an erect, rounded form. The "Shamrock" inkberry cultivar grows 3 to 4 feet high and wide. Its oblong to oval, glossy, deep-green leaves provide winter garden interest where temperatures don't fall significantly below zero, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Pollinated female bushes also have clusters of black berries that bring hungry birds to the winter garden. The berries follow the small, white, May and June flowers. Use this relatively pest and disease free shrub as a foundation plant, hedge or in shrub war. Plant it in full sun--for best performance--to partial shade. Provide moist or wet, rich acidic soil with a pH below 6 .8. Male and female plants are necessary for berry production.
Evergreen Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta), normally grown as an 8- to 15-foot shrub, withstands winter temperatures to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. It has spiny, 4-inch, rectangular, green leaves and fragrant, small, white May flowers. Pollinated female plants produce berries that ripen to red in autumn and remain into winter. Birds feed on the fruit. This holly is vulnerable to a host of insect and disease pests, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. They include spider mites, scale, leaf spot and powdery mildew. Use this holly in foundation plantings or as a hedge for winter garden interest. Provide full sun and averagely moist, well-drained soil. The heat-and-drought-tolerant shrub benefits from winter wind protection.
Possum Haw "Council Fire"
"Council Fire" is a deciduous possum haw (Ilex decidua) holly shrub cultivar standing 6 to 12 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide. Surviving to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, this is an erect, rounded plant. Its narrow, glossy, deep-green summer leaves turn yellow in autumn and are an attractive background for orange-red fall berries. Following the shrub's inconspicuous white May flowers, the berries remain on pollinated female plants until new growth begins the following March. Use "Council Fire" as a specimen plant or in groups or hedges, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden. It grows in sun or partial shade and does best in organically rich, moist and acidic soil.