The Resilient Oak Leaf Holly Tree

The allure of holly bushes is undeniable, and when we stumble upon an extraordinary specimen, it’s only natural to want to share it with our clients. Enter the Oak Leaf Holly, a splendid holly tree that possesses exceptional qualities. This fast-growing tree, known to reach towering heights of up to 20 feet in just a decade, exudes robustness, as one would expect from its intricate lineage. But what truly sets it apart is its captivating foliage, with holly spines adorning leaves that bear a striking resemblance to oak leaves.

A Solo Performer

The Oak Leaf Holly truly shines when it comes to self-sufficient fruit production. Most holly varieties require separate male and female trees for cross-pollination and the subsequent production of berries. However, this is not the case with the Oak Leaf Holly. Thanks to its “perfect” flowers, it possesses the remarkable ability to pollinate itself. This means that even if you only have space for a single holly bush, this is the one to choose. With its bold, upright pyramidal shape, it excels as a standalone specimen or when planted in a row to create a natural screen. It can also be clustered together to create handsome background plantings, and surprisingly, it thrives even in large containers, producing an abundant crop of berries. For optimal grouping or use as a hedge or screen, it is advised to space the trees about 8 to 10 feet apart.

Thanks to its self-pollinating nature, just one Oak Leaf Holly tree can become a winter wonderland, adorned with clusters of radiant orange-red berries. These berries are perfect for seasonal wreaths and decorations, or simply left on the bush to brighten up the winter garden. Interestingly, if you happen to have other female holly bushes that are lacking berries, fear not. The Oak Leaf Holly will come to the rescue, pollinating them and transforming your entire holly collection into a berry-filled spectacle (as long as the other varieties are female, of course).

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Cultivating Oak Leaf Holly Trees

With its luscious, emerald-green leaves, the Oak Leaf Holly captivates year-round. During spring, the new leaves boast a maroon edge, infusing the entire leaf with a captivating glow. This eventually transitions into a rich, deep green, retaining its vibrancy throughout the summer and winter. After the initial burst of growth, a light trimming can be performed to enhance density or shape the tree into a more formal and upright structure. Another round of trimming in late summer will prompt a fresh flush of growth, ensuring an attractive appearance during the winter months.

The leaves themselves measure up to 3 ½ inches in length, featuring 3 to 5 sets of spines along the sides and 3 spines at the tip, with one gracefully adorning the leaf’s summit. Sporting a slightly matte finish, these leaves deviate from the glossy appearance commonly found on other holly varieties. When spring arrives, delicate clusters of small white flowers emerge, gradually transitioning into large orange-red berries as the season progresses. These berries, which grow in clusters of up to 15, provide a captivating display that adorns the tree for months and eventually becomes a feast for birds.

Resilient in Various Conditions

The Oak Leaf Holly is a tenacious hybrid that will flourish in nearly any soil type. Whether it be moist or dry, sandy or clay, this tree eagerly accepts any challenge. During the initial year or two, regular watering is recommended, particularly for those with sandy soil or during dry spells. However, once the trees establish themselves, they exhibit impressive drought tolerance and thrive with minimal attention. Untroubled by pests or diseases, the Oak Leaf Holly proves hardy, withstanding at least zone 7 and potentially even colder conditions. It also flourishes in zones 8 and 9.

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Unearthing the Origins

The Oak Leaf Holly traces its roots back to a fortuitous discovery in 1989. Jack Magee stumbled upon a seedling amidst a batch of holly seeds while at the Evergreen Nursery in Poplarville, Mississippi. These seeds were naturally generated by a hybrid holly named “Mary Nell,” which emerged as a mixture of three distinct holly species. One of the parents was the lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia), while the other contributor remained an anonymous hybrid between the Burford holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’) and the Red Delight perny holly (Ilex pernyi ‘Red Delight’). With three diverse holly species intertwining, the Oak Leaf Holly inherited an exceptional genetic composition, resulting in its vigorous growth rate of up to 24 inches in a single year.


For more information about the Ames Farm Center and a wide selection of remarkable holly trees, visit the Ames Farm Center.

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Oak Leaf Holly Tree