Ilex opaca
American Holly

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Butterfly FriendlyDeer ResistantRain GardenPart ShadeFall Color
American Holly
Ilex opaca

American holly is a much-loved evergreen tree that has become a symbol for winter holidays. In the fall, over 20 different species of birds including cedar waxwings, robins, catbirds, and mockingbirds, flock to the trees to dine on the berries. The dense branching provides cover for songbirds and other wildlife. Plant them in slightly acidic, well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Avoid extremely dry, windy sites. This holly is pretty enough to stand alone but small groups of these trees really look spectacular. 

  • Small greenish-white flowers bloom in spring
  • Attracts butterflies, the host plant for Henrys Elfin butterfly
  • Bright red berries attract 20 different species of birds
  • Dense branching provides cover for birds and other wildlife
  • Attractive evergreen foliage, nice for privacy
  • Great for holiday decorating!

Native Range

Found in shaded woods, stream and river banks, uplands and in lowlands. Primarily an understory tree.

Interesting Facts


When the pilgrims arrived in this country and saw our native holly, the evergreen leaves and red berries reminded them of their native English holly. They began using this plant in holiday decorations and gave it the nickname Christmas holly. 




Does best in acidic, well-drained soils with plenty of organic matter. Will grow in sun or partial shade. It needs no pruning and is generally pest-free. In order to get berries, you will need a male plant to pollinate the female. One male plant is enough to pollinate several female plants.


Mature Size: 15-30ft. Tall x 5-15ft. Wide

Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Sun Exposure: Part Shade

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