6 Types of Holly Trees You Will Find Growing in Texas

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Home » Texas » 6 Types of Holly Trees You Will Find Growing in Texas

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)

American Holly Tree, Leaves, Berries
Images via Nature Hills, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)

Image by Urban Forestry via Flickr

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)

Image by Sonnia Hill via Flickr

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)

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
‘Winter Red’ Winterberry – Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine)

Dahoon Holly
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

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)

Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata) 'Steeds' and 'Soft Touch'
Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata) ‘Steeds‘ (left) and ‘Soft Touch‘ (right) cultivars – Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Comparing Texas Holly Tree Varieties

VarietyDescriptionGrowing ZonesAverage Size at Maturity
American HollyClassic Holly with dark green, prickly leaves and red berries, thriving in eastern and central Texas.5-1025-35 ft tall x 15-20 ft wide
YauponSimilar to American Holly but with lighter red berries. Leaves and twigs contain caffeine, used for making a caffeinated drink.7-910-20 ft tall x 8-12 ft wide
PossumhawDeciduous Holly, native to Texas, changes leaf color seasonally.5-97-15 ft tall x 5-12 ft wide
WinterberryFruits earlier than other Holly varieties, deciduous with purple-green leaves turning yellow.3-96-10 ft tall x 6-10 ft wide
Dahoon HollyKnown for its ornamental value with white flower clusters in spring and heavy berry production.7-1120-30 ft tall x 8-12 ft wide
Japanese HollyProduces white flowers and black berries resembling blueberries.5-74-10 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.

Holly trees 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!

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Peyton Warmack-Chipman

Environmental Politics & Permaculture Enthusiast

Peyton considers trees not just as plants that provide shade or yummy fruits, but as necessary for a healthy life and community. Peyton has done most of her research on environmental politics, but recently has shifted her focus towards actual agricultural practices, learning about ideas like agroforestry, food forests, and permaculture gardening. She's most often in the kitchen whipping something up, but otherwise can be found on long bike rides or doing research.

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