Holly facts: There's a bunch of sexy stuff!

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This winterberry holly (I. verticillata) is a female. The button-center flowers tell the tale. The stamens surrounding the button-like, female pistil in each flower are not functional. No pollen develops there, as it does on the stamens of male flowers.

  • Dispelling a common misconception: Bloom is not dependent on companionship. A plant of a dioecious species will bloom even in isolation.
  • One male holly plant can provide enough pollen to pollinate many female plants.
  • To match in leaf color or growth habit between holly lad and lasses, stick with varieties of the same species. Male varieties have been selected in most species -- some are 'Blue Prince', 'China Boy', and American tree holly 'John Boy.'
  • Lady hollies are not particular, however! If a male plant of any holly species is blooming at the same time as the female and is within a few hundred feet -- bee flying range -- the female flowers can develop into fruit. So your 'Blue Princess', 'China Girl' or 'Satyr Hill' tree holly might consort with neighborhood males across species lines.
  • Sometimes fruit on a lone plant: Some Chinese hollies (I. cornuta) are parthenocarpic -- females can set fruit without a male.
  • 'Berri-Magic' hollies are popular because they set fruit "even if you plant just one." These are actually a male and female cutting grown together in the same pot.
  • For more about plant sex issues, see:
    Growing Concerns issue 494
    Growing Concerns issue 495
    Growing Concerns issue 500.


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