Oak Leaf Holly: A Beautiful and Versatile Addition to Any Landscape

Hollies, often misunderstood and underestimated, are a diverse group of plants that deserve a second look. It’s unfair to stereotype these remarkable plants based on limited experiences. Each holly possesses its own unique personality and charm, and one particular variety that stands out is the Oak Leaf holly. With its stocky upright growth habit, this holly is destined to become a favorite among gardeners.

Characteristics of an Oak Leaf Holly

The Oak Leaf holly is a robust plant that can reach heights of up to 20 feet with a spread of at least eight feet. Its columnar form, although not quite pyramidal, creates a striking presence in any landscape. The dark green leaves of the Oak Leaf holly are evergreen, emerging as a captivating purple-green in the spring. These leaves, measuring up to three inches long and 1¼-inch wide, feature three to five prominent pairs of eighth-inch long spines. With a touch of imagination, they even resemble oak leaves, adding an extra layer of visual appeal.

Flowering

Unlike most hollies, the Oak Leaf holly is a hermaphrodite, boasting both male and female flower parts in every bloom. Consequently, it is self-fruitful, eliminating the need for a male pollinator. Though the flowers themselves are greenish-white and have no ornamental appeal, the berries that follow are vibrant orange-red and remain on the tree throughout the winter.

The Origin of Oak Leaf Holly

Originally selected by nurseryman Jack Magee at Evergreen Nurseries in Poplaville, Mississippi, Oak Leaf is one of the celebrated “Red Hollies.” Patent-pending since 1995 under the cultivar name ‘Conaf,’ it has been marketed exclusively by Flowerwood Nursery of Mobile, Alabama, as Oak Leaf. Magee introduced five red hollies, but it’s Oak Leaf that has garnered the most attention. In 2002, Magee patented Oakland Holly (‘Magland’), which can be considered a branch sport of the Oak Leaf variety. Oakland Holly closely resembles Oak Leaf but is more compact, with leaves spaced more closely on the stems. Though it may take a few more years, it is expected to reach a similar height as its predecessor.

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During the 1980s, Magee planted seeds from a ‘Mary Nell’ holly at his nursery. Developed by the late Dr. Joe McDaniel, a horticulture professor at the University of Illinois, ‘Mary Nell’ is a glossy-leafed, pyramidal plant. The female parent of this three-way hybrid was an Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ holly crossed with I. pernyi ‘Red Delight,’ while the male parent was I. latifolia, also known as Lusterleaf holly. ‘Mary Nell,’ a non-patented female clone, was named in 1981. Being the product of an open pollinated cross, the male parent of Oak Leaf holly remains uncertain.

Best Uses for Oak Leaf and Oakland Hollies

Both Oak Leaf and Oakland hollies are substantial plants that excel as specimens, hedges, or screening elements. However, their size makes them unsuitable for cramped foundation plantings. Ensure they have ample space to develop and flourish. Like all hollies, Oak Leaf holly responds well to shearing, allowing gardeners to shape it to their desired specifications.

Caring for Oak Leaf Holly

Oak Leaf holly is hardy in zones 6 to 9b, boasting a moderate growth rate. During the spring flush, it can put on a foot of growth and will continue to grow as long as it receives sufficient moisture throughout the summer. This versatile holly thrives in full sun or light shade and adapts well to various soil types. It has proven to perform admirably in both clay and sandy soil. To achieve optimal results, maintain a pH level between 5.2 and 6.8. Additionally, Oak Leaf holly has shown excellent resistance to diseases and insects.

For more detailed information on caring for hollies, we recommend referring to our publication, “Hollies in the Home Garden.”

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Oak Leaf Holly

In conclusion, the Oak Leaf holly is an exceptional addition to any landscape. With its captivating appearance, easy maintenance, and adaptability, it is sure to become a favorite among both experienced gardeners and those new to the world of horticulture. To get your own Oak Leaf holly and explore a wide range of other horticultural wonders, visit the Ames Farm Center.