Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: American Holly
Ilex opaca

Family: Aquifoliaceae (a-kwee-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ilex (EYE-leks) (Info)
Species: opaca (oh-PAK-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Ilex opaca var. opaca

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

17 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From hardwood cuttings
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
By grafting

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Click thumbnail
to view:

By zsnp
Thumbnail #1 of Ilex opaca by zsnp

By escambiaguy
Thumbnail #2 of Ilex opaca by escambiaguy

By frostweed
Thumbnail #3 of Ilex opaca by frostweed

By escambiaguy
Thumbnail #4 of Ilex opaca by escambiaguy

By ViburnumValley
Thumbnail #5 of Ilex opaca by ViburnumValley

By ViburnumValley
Thumbnail #6 of Ilex opaca by ViburnumValley

By hczone6
Thumbnail #7 of Ilex opaca by hczone6

There are a total of 18 photos.
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6 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive braun06 On Apr 8, 2010, braun06 from Peoria Heights, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

I lived in the south a few number of years and became accustomed to the American Holly and wanted to plant one in zone 5a. Some opaca around here lose thier leaves in severe winters in exposed sites but recover soon as spring hits so in zone 5 these guys are fully usable. Others never lose a leaf. Winter protection can always be useful this far north for a better looking plant but not necessary.

Positive CTpalmguy On Nov 9, 2008, CTpalmguy from South Lyme, CT (Zone 7a) wrote:

The American Holly is very nice, broadleaf-evergreen tree native north to coastal portions of Connecticut on the east coast. Trees from native stands here in Connecticut often have a very pleasant, slightly conical (like the Southern Magnolia), open habit. This plant is underused in landscapes across the northern part of its range. Some ignorantly insist that the tree, though native here in the northeast, is not "hardy." It would be nice to see more of these trees and less of the overused China Girl or China Boy hollies.

Positive LeBug On Dec 10, 2007, LeBug from Greenville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

I love this holly, so much prettier than the other hollies because it doesnt lose all of its leaves like the other ones, it does shed and those prickly leaves everywhere but you can never see all the way through it like some others. Ours is close to 30' I'm sure, and my favorite tree in the whole yard!

Positive ViburnumValley On Jan 28, 2007, ViburnumValley from Scott County, KY (Zone 5b) wrote:

American holly is an excellent broadleaf evergreen for the Ohio River valley region, and everywhere its wide native distribution allows it to grow (northeastern US down the Atlantic coast and through most of the south).

Typically conical in habit, American holly can be pendulous, columnar, or a dwarf spreader. It is normally red-fruited, but there are fine orange and yellow-fruited forms too. There are selections made for zone 5 winter hardiness, and trees selected for virtually spineless leaves. Over one thousand cultivars have been named, so there is pretty much an American holly for everyone.

Peruse the cultivars illustrated in PlantFiles, and see if you don't find one that deserves a place in your landscape.

Positive frostweed On Mar 8, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

American Holly is a lovely evergreen tree Native to Texas.
It is a slow grower, but worth the wait.

Positive TREEHUGR On Jan 24, 2005, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I think this is my favorite of the hollies. There is at least one of them planted where I am living now. Seems like they maintain a neater, more conical growth shape, more leaves, a darker color green and detailed leaves. I'm glad to see quite a few of this native in my new area.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama
Jacksonville, Alabama
Wetumpka, Alabama
Morrilton, Arkansas
Farmington, Connecticut
Simsbury, Connecticut
Ellendale, Delaware
Bartow, Florida
Dunnellon, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Trenton, Florida
Kihei, Hawaii
Peoria, Illinois
Greenville, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Macy, Indiana
Shawnee Mission, Kansas
Clermont, Kentucky
Cynthiana, Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Hi Hat, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Paris, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Holden, Louisiana
Centreville, Maryland
Laurel, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Halifax, Massachusetts
Mashpee, Massachusetts
Biloxi, Mississippi
Saucier, Mississippi
Waynesboro, Mississippi
Piscataway, New Jersey
Buffalo, New York
Charlotte, North Carolina
Highlands, North Carolina
Waxhaw, North Carolina
Glouster, Ohio
Youngstown, Ohio
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Sumter, South Carolina
Arlington, Texas
Garland, Texas
Houston, Texas
Huntsville, Texas
New Caney, Texas
Roanoke, Virginia

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