Holly is the December 2019 Plant of the Month

December, 2019: Holly

Boulder Colorado area landscapes – plant of the month

Holly, and more specifically, Ilex x meserveae is a form of Holly that can grow here in our Erie Colorado landscapes. It likes some sun, but will tolerate shade, and should be protected from strong winter sun or late afternoon summer sun. It will prefer an environment protected from the winter winds as well. There are several varieties available to landscapers here in Colorado. Blue Boy, Blue Girl, Blue Prince and Blue Princess are the standards, and need to be planted in relatively close proximity to insure that berry production is maximized. There is also Berri-Magic Kids’ Holly which provides for both male and female plants in the same pot, insuring good berry production. This is not the easiest plant to get established in our Colorado soils, but with good acidic soil amendment, careful watering when young, and the right location, Berri-Magic Kids’ Holly, or others, can be a wonderful addition to the landscape. It will grow to about 4-6’ high, and maybe a bit more in the right location, is fussy about soil and prefers acidic soils, and likes to be kept evenly moist. This is considered a broad-leaf evergreen in Colorado in that it will not lose its leaves in the winter. Most striking are the bright red berries that persist into winter. The birds love them, but not people.

The berries and leaves are toxic to humans and pets. Ingestion of as few as 20 berries by a child can be fatal. So, good education of children who can be attracted to the bright red berries, to not eat anything from a plant they don’t know about is tantamount to any successful landscape since there are lots of toxic plants in everyday landscapes and nature. Generally, animals know by the bitter awful taste, not to eat them, but children will experiment. A couple berries will cause an upset stomach and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. There are 480 species of Holly and they reside all over the world, so it is best to teach children when young about the dangers that can exist by eating plants with which they are not familiar.

That said, they are a beautiful plant with striking features…glossy shiny dark green leaves that emerge a light green and are soft to the touch. They harden and have a sharp point on them once mature. They are easily pruned to shape and are best pruned in late winter near Boulder, Colorado. Plant one or a few in your landscape to experiment with the texture and colors.

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