Ilex Species, American Holly, Christmas 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:Ageria opaca
View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage


Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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

Bloom Color:

White/Near White


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama

Jacksonville, Alabama

Wetumpka, Alabama

Morrilton, Arkansas

Farmington, Connecticut

Simsbury, Connecticut

Ellendale, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Bartow, Florida

Dunnellon, Florida

Okeechobee, 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

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Biloxi, Mississippi

Saucier, Mississippi

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Piscataway, New Jersey

Buffalo, New York

Charlotte, North Carolina

Highlands, North Carolina

Waxhaw, North Carolina

Glouster, Ohio

Guysville, Ohio

Youngstown, Ohio

Cheshire, Oregon

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

Sumter, South Carolina

Arlington, Texas

Garland, Texas

Houston, Texas

Huntsville, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Roanoke, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 9, 2016, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

American Holly is native to and does well in the Mid-Atlantic Region. It is a beautiful broadleaf evergreen tree. It grows about 1 foot/year, though cultivars of this range from 6" to 15"/year. The red berries borne by the female or pistillate trees are very good for many species of birds. It grows wild a lot in the Delmarva peninsula in forest with oak, hickory, and other hardwood trees. It does sometimes self sow in landscapes a little bit, which is nice. Unfortunately, the nursery industry has been giving more favor to the hybrid Anglo-Chinese species with the cultivar of 'Nellie Stevens' that grows twice as fast, but does not look as good with the latter's irregular end growth.


On Apr 8, 2010, braun06 from Irving, TX (Zone 8a) 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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.