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New Choices Among Favorite Hollies
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Red Holly hybrids are a new group of hollies noted for their deep burgundy color on new growth. These are all seedling selections from the Mary Nell variety.
Hollies are some of the very best shrubs or small trees for the Mississippi landscapes. They come through as troopers in the coldest of winters. Then when azaleas wilt in the hottest summers, hollies stand firm.
I continue to be partial to Fosters, Nellie R. Stevens and Mary Nell, and yaupon hollies because they have stood the test of time. But the Red Holly hybrid group has really caught my attention.
Red Hollies have about the same cultural requirement as the Nellie R. Stevens and are hardy throughout our state. They perform well in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
The first red-leafed holly is named Cardinal. It reaches a height of 14 feet and a spread of 8 feet. Cardinal is a bold textured, large, female evergreen shrub. As it matures, the limbs sweep toward the ground in a classic pyramidal form.
This variety is equally as cold-hardy as the Nellie R. Stevens hybrid, and is most similar to Mary Nell. Its landscape advantages are the classic holly growth habit, maroon new growth and an abundance of large red berries.
Festive reaches a height of 12 feet and spreads 8 feet. The dense, medium-sized evergreen shrub has spiny, stiff foliage that is dark green and shiny. Festive can easily be maintained as a tightly sheared pyramid for a small garden accent.
Oakleaf is the most upright plant in the series. The foliage is emerald green and similar in shape to an oak leaf. It reaches a height of 14 feet with a spread of 8 feet. This holly is very cold hardy and should be used as a tall hedge or large specimen.
Robin reaches a mature height of 14 feet with an 8-foot spread. It produces lovely, large, dark green leaves with new foliage that is predominately maroon. This female cultivar produces abundant berries.
Robin is equal to Nellie R. Stevens in cold hardiness, but is expected to grow taller. It can be used best in pyramidal form or as a hedging.
Little Red reaches a height of 10 feet with a 6-foot spread. It is the smallest of the Red Hollies, and can be maintained easily as a specimen, full foundation shrub or medium hedge.
You can see Little Red planted at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Stations in Poplarville, Crystal Springs and Verona. The young plantings will be evaluated at these sites for several years.
Hollies are great backdrops for seasonal color like pansies, chrysanthemums, kale and cabbage, and other shrubs like barberries or gray-leafed junipers.
We are now entering the best time to plant hollies, as well as other trees and shrubs. As temperatures start to cool, plants have the opportunity to get well established before next spring.
One thing is certain -- hollies in the landscape, whether used as a backdrop or as a specimen loaded with bright red berries, are one of the very best shrubs or small trees for any home.