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If you are like most, you probably have holiday greenery making spirits merry and bright. Many of our greenery decorations at Christmas include hollies, as the bright red berries compliment our green and red color palette. Gardeners that have planted these stately evergreens sometimes wonder why their hollies aren’t producing the intended berries. There can be a few reasons for this. Hollies are dioecious, meaning they need male and female plants to produce the seeds. If the tree is a male, or if there are no males in the area to fertilize the female plants, there will be a lack of flowers. Make sure the male and female holly are within 150 yards of each other. Also, make sure to purchase both male and female plants. Popular selections of winterberry (Ilex verticillata) include the male ‘Jim Dandy’ and the heavy producing ‘Red Sprite’ female.
Other reasons why hollies may not produce berries may include flowers being killed in a late cold snap, or being pruned off. Flowers that would become the berries later on are no longer present. Lack of sunlight can reduce flowers, thereby reducing the ability to produce berries. And finally, many hollies need to be at least three to five years old to produce berries.
All of these factors can inhibit production of berries, although the waxy green leaves can still be enjoyed during the season. Happy holly-days!