Holly trees, trees of the Ilex genus, can be found growing all over the U.S., since they can grow in many types of climates. Holly trees are best known as “Christmas Holly” because their bright green leaves and red berries stand out in the winter landscape.
Yet, there are many kinds of Holly that can grow in Texas, including many native varieties that you can find growing wild! This is because the Texas climate is so variable. Texas ranges from USDA Hardiness zones 7a to 10a, which allows for Holly trees with different hardiness levels.
In this article, we’ll cover six varieties of Holly that can either grow natively in Texas, or can grow successfully in your garden! Keep reading to see which would be the best fit for you.
6 Varieties of Holly to Grow in Texas
1. American Holly (Ilex opaca var. opaca)
The “American Holly” is the variety you’re likely most familiar with and have already seen every year at Christmas. Ilex opaca var. opaca is the classic Holly with the dark green, prickly leaves and festive red berries.
Outside of Christmas decorations, this Holly grows really well all over eastern TX. It thrives on the moist, humid climate of eastern TX, and especially loves the acidic soil. Although, it’s also commonly found growing on the hillsides of central TX wherever there is rocky and acidic soil.
American Holly is definitely the largest species of Holly- it can grow to 60 feet tall when growing wildly! However, it’s often grown as a large shrub or medium tree when planted for landscaping.
Holly trees are very easy to shape and prune, as you’ll see with the other varieties, so they can be grown any way you like!
Other Common Names: Yule Holly, White Holly, Christmas Holly, Prickly Holly, Evergreen Holly
Growing Zones: 5-10
Average Size at Maturity: 25-35 ft tall by 15-20 ft wide
Season: Fall and Winter
2. Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)
Yaupon trees are native to Texas and thrive in the floodplains and wet woodlands of east TX. This is their ideal climate, so Yaupon trees can be found all over the southeastern U.S.
It looks very similar to American Holly trees, sharing the same dark green leaves and bright berries. However, the berries on Yaupon trees are slightly lighter red and not as vibrant as the American Holly’s berries.
As with all types of Holly trees, the berries are toxic and should not be eaten. However, Yaupon trees contain caffeine, so the branches and twigs can be used to make a caffeinated drink. This tree gets the name Ilex vomitoria, because consuming too much of this infusion will make you vomit!
Yaupon is an evergreen tree, so it keeps its leaves all year long. This is a great addition to your landscaping if you have many deciduous trees that go bare in the winter.
Other Common Names: Yaupon Holly, Cassina
Growing Zones: 7-9
Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 ft tall by 8-12 ft wide
Season: Fall and Winter
3. Possumhaw (Ilex decidua)
Possumhaw trees are unique in the Ilex genus in that they drop their leaves in the fall and remain naked throughout the winter. This is why you will often hear Possumhaw called Deciduous Holly as well.
Possumhaw trees are another Texas native that are a fundamental part of the Texas flora. Because they’re deciduous, Possumhaw leaves change color throughout the season and add another dimension to the Texas landscape.
In the fall, their leaves turn dark purplish-green before fading the yellow and falling. Months before, they have pale green flowers that bloom in the Spring.
Following these flowers are their berries, which are more orange-red than other Holly varieties. The berries stay on the tree through the winter, as snacks for the hungry birds and squirrels. These berries are also toxic to humans and shouldn’t be eaten.
Other Common Names: Deciduous Holly, Possumhaw Holly, Meadow Holly, Bearberry, Winterberry
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 7-15 ft tall by 5-12 ft wide
Season: Fall and Winter
Available at: Nature Hills
4. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Something that makes the Winterberry Holly special is that it fruits sooner than most other Holly varieties, usually in early fall. This is the greatest distinguishing factor between Winterberry and other Hollies, because it looks very similar to most other species.
Winterberry trees are also deciduous and follow the same cycle that Possumhaws have with their purple-green leaves that turn yellow. Their light green flowers are small and their bark is dark brown, almost black.
As with all Holly species, you need a male and female plant near each other for the female to produce berries. These trees grow very slowly, but they’re highly pest and disease resistant.
Winterberry can be grown as a large shrub or a medium-sized tree. These trees are often planted for hedges or natural privacy fences, but they can also be pruned to grow tall. The shape just depends on what space you have!
Other Common Names: Winterberry Holly, Black Alder, Holly Berry
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 6-10 ft tall by 6-10 ft wide
Season: Fall and Winter
5. Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine)
Although Dahoon Holly isn’t the tallest variety of Holly trees, it’s most often grown as a tree rather than as a shrub, like many other Hollies. This is because it naturally grows in the form of a tree, usually just with one trunk and growing upright.
However, Dahoon Holly still isn’t a massive tree, so you can grow it even in small spaces. It’s certainly not a huge shade tree, but these trees have a wide, open canopy that provides nice spotted shade.
Dahoon Holly trees are also more ornamental than other Holly varieties. In the Spring, these trees have flowers that bloom in white clusters along the branches. These flowers are more white, and therefore noticeable, than most Holly flowers.
Their leaves are also smoother on the edges, and the berry production is much heavier. Dahoon Holly is also more tolerant of neutral soil and so can grow in a wider range.
Other Common Names: Alabama Dahoon
Growing Zones: 7-11
Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall by 8-12 ft wide
Season: Spring and Fall
6. Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)
Although clearly not a tree native to Texas, Japanese Hollies can grow very well in the Texan climates and are great picks for gardening. These trees are deer resistant, so they’re a great pick to plant around various edible plants that you want for yourself- not for wildlife!
Japanese Holly trees are more shrub-like, since they have multiple trunks, but they’re often shaped into small trees. They’re very beautiful plants, with lighter green leaves that are soft around the edges. This Holly is evergreen, so it can add green to your landscape all year long.
Its flowers are white and bloom in the spring, followed by the black berries that closely resemble blueberries!
Japanese Holly can be grown all over the top half of the state. It has average water needs and can be drought tolerant once mature. Ideally, this Holly likes acidic soil but can grow with standard well-draining soil.
Other Common Names: Boxleaf Holly
Growing Zones: 5-7
Average Size at Maturity: 4-10 ft tall by 4-10 ft wide
Season: Fall and Winter
Table Comparing Texas Holly Tree Varieties
This table offers a comprehensive overview of the six Holly tree varieties suitable for growth in Texas, highlighting their distinct characteristics, adaptability to local climates, and physical dimensions at maturity.
|Average Size at Maturity
|Classic Holly with dark green, prickly leaves and red berries, thriving in eastern and central Texas. It is the largest species of Holly, adaptable to acidic soil.
|25-35 ft tall x 15-20 ft wide
|Native to Texas, thriving in floodplains and wet woodlands of east TX. Similar to American Holly but with lighter red berries. Leaves and twigs contain caffeine, used for making a caffeinated drink.
|10-20 ft tall x 8-12 ft wide
|Deciduous Holly, native to Texas, changes leaf color seasonally. Known for its orange-red berries which are a food source for wildlife in winter.
|7-15 ft tall x 5-12 ft wide
|Fruits earlier than other Holly varieties, deciduous with purple-green leaves turning yellow. Needs male and female plants for berry production. Slow-growing but pest and disease resistant.
|6-10 ft tall x 6-10 ft wide
|Grows as a tree with a wide, open canopy. Known for its ornamental value with white flower clusters in spring and heavy berry production. Tolerant of neutral soil.
|20-30 ft tall x 8-12 ft wide
|Not native to Texas but grows well in the state. Deer resistant, evergreen with lighter green leaves and soft edges. Produces white flowers and black berries resembling blueberries. Adaptable to various soil types, can be drought tolerant once mature.
|4-10 ft tall x 4-10 ft wide
Happy Holly Planting
There you have it! If you’re interested in growing a Holly tree in your yard or garden, these six are definitely your best options to choose from. Hollies can be somewhat particular plants, as they won’t grow everywhere, but at least there are options to select what’s best for you.
It’s important to consider what kind of soil you have and know if you need to buy (or make) acidic soil. This is the main need for Holly trees. If you live in east TX, then this shouldn’t be a problem! Otherwise, adding in more acidic soil is an easy step!
Soil aside, Hollies can be big or small, bushy or tree-like. As long as you have the right conditions, you can grow a Holly tree however you’d like!