Yaupon holly. Photo: Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
Updated: March 6, 2023
About Yaupon holly
Ilex vomitoria Broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree Holly family
Maryland Distribution: not native in the state; native to the southeastern United States Height: 15 to 20 feet tall; the majority of readily-available cultivars mature smaller Flowers: inconspicuous greenish-white flowers; fragrant but not showy; dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants); insect-pollinated Fall color: no change; evergreen Sun: full sun to shade Soil: adaptable to a variety of soils, dry to wet; pH 3.5-6.5; tolerates salt
Due to our changing climate, species native to our south have the potential to be more aligned with mid-Atlantic ecosystems in the future. Gardening with projected climate impacts in mind helps to create a resilient plant community as the plant palette appropriate to our area changes. As such, this “near native” plant is included in our recommendations for its adaptability. Learn more about Native Plants and Climate Change.
Garden Uses: Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree with a medium-fine texture (similar to boxwood and Japanese holly) and a medium-fast growth rate. This species has a loose and open habit, typically spreading as wide as it is tall. It is adaptable to a wide range of soil types and will grow in very dry or wet conditions in full sun to full shade.
Yaupon holly is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are on separate plants. Pollinated female flowers produce small (less than a quarter-inch) red or orange berries (drupes) in the fall. The berries can persist into winter and provide food for birds. This plant spreads by suckers and will form a thicket in areas where it does not have competition from other plants. It tolerates pruning very well and is a good substitute for boxwood and Japanese holly. It is resistant to Phytophthora root rot and deer browsing and is tolerant of soil compaction, salt, and air pollution.
Many cultivars are available, including dwarf forms:
‘Nana’ - compact male, up to 5 feet tall
‘Stoke’s Dwarf’ / ‘Schillings’ - more compact than ‘Nana’, 3 to 4 feet tall, male
‘Micron’ - 1 to 2 feet tall, probably male
‘Taylor’s Rudolf’ - 3 to 4 feet tall, female
‘Pride of Houston’- 12 to 15 feet tall, female
Use for: hedges, screening, foundations, topiary, coastal gardens, pollinator gardens, or rain gardens.
Wildlife: The flower nectar supports butterflies and bees. This is a host plant for Henry's Elfin butterfly. Songbirds and small mammals eat the berries.
Dirr, Michael. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses, Fifth Edition.
Dove, Tony and Ginger Woolridge. 2018. Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States: The Guide to Creating a Sustainable Landscape. Watertown, MA.