American Holly Tree

Ilex opaca

American Holly Trees are possibly one of the easiest trees to grow. Here in Maryland the woods are filled with American Holly Trees. In the winter the understory of the forests are alive with the green leaves and red berries that the birds just adore. Easily grown in shaded areas under taller trees or along the woodlines and they thrivein full sun as well.

Growzone: 6-9

As Low As $29.95
1. Choose Size & Quantity
Size Price Quantity
1 Gallon Pot $29.95

Out of stock

3 Gallon Pot $89.95
2. Choose Recommended Add-Ons
Product Price Quantity
Espoma Bio-Tone Plus Starter Plus $14.95

Out of stock

Treegator Jr. Slow Release Watering Bag $25.95
15" Tree Staking kit by DeWitt $16.95
This Plants Growzone: 6-9
Growing Zone: 6-9
Mature Height: 15 to 20 feet
Mature Width: 12 to 15 feet
Sunlight: Full Sun to part shade
Foliage Color: Dark Green
Growth Form: Upright pyramidal
Soil Conditions: Very tolerant of most soil conditions

American Holly Tree for Sale Online

American Holly Trees or Ilex opaca are a beautiful, fast-growing holly tree that will keep its vibrant red berries through the winter. The red glow of the berries contrasts well against the dark green foliage and makes a beautiful specimen tree. Birds love the berries and will be attracted to your landscape during the winter.

American Holly trees make great privacy hedges. To view other plants that can be used as Privacy screens, see our blog on Choosing the Best Privacy Trees for Your Area.

To view our entire collection of Holly Trees, click HERE.

Highlights of American Holly Trees:

  • One of the easiest growing Native Hollies.
  • Great for privacy hedges or a mixed border.
  • Deer resistant.
  • Foliage can be used for Christmas and Holiday decorations.

Other Products you may be interested in


Green Luster Holly Shrubs

Growzone: 5-9



Dragon Lady Holly Trees

Growzone: 6-8


Full Description

The pride of the native hollies. Ilex opaca or American Holly is a very deer resistant holly tree has been overshadowed in recent years by more advertised cultivars, although the popularity of the plant remains strong. This naturally pyramidal evergreen tree keeps its vibrant red berries through the winter. This Native Holly, not only provides winter interest, and adapts to many different soil types but they are used by many songbirds as cover during the winter months when other trees are bare..

Using American Holly Trees as a Privacy Screen

The ever popular American Holly Trees are winter hardy to Zone 6. It is a naturally pyramidal tree, which can reach up to 20 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide at the base which makes it great for use as a tall screen. Give American Holly trees plenty of room, to allow for symmetry of growth. It grows well in a variety of soils, but does prefer good drainage. The American Holly tree is useful if you need to create privacy for your home. It’s a medium growing tree growing around 1 to 2 feet per year where its happy. We recommend planting American Holly Trees in a line with about 5 feet apart from each other to create quick privacy, however they can be planted at 10 to 12 foot intervals if you don’t mind waiting a bit for privacy. When planting alone the tree takes on a pyramidal shape and can be grown as a specimen tree to break sight-lines. Double row plantings of American Holly Tree are a great way to not only create privacy but to reduce noise from a busy roadway adjacent to your property for example. American Holly trees also make a wonderful backdrop for planting beds. The pleasing dark color makes flowering plants really standout especially in the winter when it has its bright red berries.

Using American Holly Trees as a Formal Hedge

American Holly Trees are widely used as a quick growing formal hedge. Plant 4 to 8 feet apart, depending upon your desired results. Trim when needed but we do suggest waiting until after the initial flush of soft spring growth however it can be pruned in late winter before the onset of new growth. If it is pruned every year, American Holly Treeswill create a fdense dark-green screen or box-shaped hedge, similar to a Yew Hedge. American Holly can be kept to any height as long as you trim it once or twice a year.

Use American Holly Tree to hide Utility Meters

American Holly Trees can also be planted in clusters in corners of the garden or to hide smaller permanent fixtures in the garden such as well caps or utility boxes. Clusters can be used at the ends of shrub borders or even in the middle to bring symmetry or vertical elements into the garden. Shrub borders tend to be a uniform in height but by adding clusters of larger evergreen trees you bring variations in height to the garden.

Soil Types for American Holly Trees

American Holly trees grow well in a wide range of soils, ranging from all sand to pure red clay. When planting in very sandy soils adding organic matter is always recommended to improve the soils ability to hold water and nutrients. When planting in hard clay soils, its best to dig the hole several feet wider than the root system and fill with soft loam soil to give the young American Holly tree a faster, more aggressive root system. American Holly prefer well drained soils but will tolerate wet soils for short periods of time. American Holly Tree should never be planted in soils that are excessively wet for long periods of time. Since American Holly have a relativley shallow root system, weeds and grass growing around the tree will cause the tree to grow much slower until established. Mulching will improve your growth three fold. Mulch not only stops weeds and grass, it will hold soil moisture and maintain a lower more even soil temperature, stimulating more aggressive root growth.

How do I prune American Holly Trees?

Shearing of American Holly Trees is generally not needed however for a formal hedge start shearing when the tree reaches 3 or 4 feet in height, cutting only the sides, remove no more than 3 or 4 inches of growth. This will cause the tree to grow thicker. If you want the tree to grow tall don't cut the top leader, just shape the sides. The best time to shear is after a new growth spurt finishes and the new growth begins to mature. Growth will go from a smooth, greasy texture, to a rougher snake skin look. Shearing twice a year is sufficient but only if needed. To keep your trees at a particular height requires cutting the central leader and then shearing all outside branches. This will control the tree for many years, but in time the tree will become too large to maintain. Pruning can help make American Holly more bushy.  It is recommended that you disinfect your shears before you begin and even after each plant to prevent disease spread.  You can prune dead or diseased limbs anytime of the year. To encourage thick bushy trees simply trim back the limbs that have outstretched the rest of the tree.

How long do American Holly trees live?

If planted in the right conditions and decently cared for American Holly Trees can live up to 100 years or longer.

History and Folklore of the American Holly Tree

The American Holly Tree wood has been used to make furniture, canes and scroll work throughout history. The wood has also been stained black and substituted for ebony in inlay work. American Holly wood is ideal for taking dyes, and is used for much of the black and white inlaid lines in musical instruments and furniture. It is also used for knife handles and black piano keys. American holly is the state tree of Delaware. A great deal of superstition once surrounded holly trees. It was believed that planting hollies near buildings would provide protection from witchcraft and lightning. It was also believed that the flowers of holly could be used to turn water to ice.

Planting Information

Follow these guidelines for the best results.



Never plant American Holly Trees deeper than originally planted in the pot. As a rule we always say that before you mulch you should still be able to see the soil from the original pot. Planting to deep can cause rotting of the stem and death to the tree. American Holly are moderately drought tolerant, however they grow very slow without adequate water. Staking young trees is recommended to minimize the stress on the stem from winds blowing the tree. When tying trees to stakes remember the tree will continue to grow. Loosely tie the tree with several twist ties to allow for growth. Check trees every three months and loosen as needed. If this is not done, the twist tie will grow into the tree causing injury. A Pro tip that we can offer is to use a short length of old garden hose and run the tie wire through the hose. this will protect the trunk of the tree from being damaged by the tie wire. The one question that comes up often when talking to customers is “when is the best time to plant trees”? For the most part, container trees can be planted year around, provided the ground isn’t frozen. Below Virginia many nurseries and Christmas tree growers field plant year around, weather permitting. When planting a potted tree, remember the only water source the tree has, is its small root ball, and all the water the tree uses must come from them until new roots can grow into the surrounding soil. New trees should be watered twice weekly (Minimum), under hot drier conditions possibly more. Care should be taken not to over water. More trees die from over watering than under.



We recommend when planting your American Holly Trees to use Bio-tone starter fertilizer by Espoma. We have trialed many so called “starter fertilizers” over the years and have come to rely on Bio-tone exclusively for our own use. Simply mix the recommended amount of Bio-tone into the back fill soil and water in generously when back filled. Bio-tone® Starter Plus is an all-natural plant food that is combined with a stronger concentration of beneficial bacteria along with both endo and ecto mycorrhizae. Basically the “good” fungus in Bio-tone colonizes on the growing roots of your newly planted plant and does not allow disease causing fungus to attack the new roots. It has also shown promise in stimulating the growth of the new roots which means quicker establishment for you plant. After establishment and during the following years we recommend Holly-tone used at the recommended rates. It is also organic and slow release which will feed your trees the proper amount of nutrients over a period of time rather than all at once which can burn the root tips and actually have the opposite effect of slowing down plant growth. It also will help to maintain the acid level in the soil that American Holly trees need to thrive.



To help your American Holly trees roots to establish, apply 2-3 gallons of water for each inch of trunk in diameter several times a week. Do not add water if the root ball is saturated. Follow this schedule for three-six months depending on the USDA Zone you live in. Once established, apply 1 gallon a week to the rootball. You can discontinue irrigation once the deciduous trees in your area have dropped their leaves. You should try to moisten the soil 2-3 feet deep each time you irrigate. Depending on the soil condition, you may need more or less water. Clay for instance is more difficult to saturate and requires adding the water more slowly, while sandy soil absorbs water quickly. Keep this in mind when watering your newly planted tree. It is best to water you tree with a soaker hose not a sprinkler.

Frequently Asked questions

How long do American Holly trees live?

Customer Reviews