Yellow-Fruited American Holly
The 2018 Holly of the Year is the Yellow-Fruited American Holly (Ilex opaca f. xanthocarpa). This native evergreen provides year-round interest in a wide variety of American landscapes, in hardiness zones from 5 to 9. A medium-sized tree, it will mature into an upright pyramidal specimen 20 to 30 feet tall in as many years. The trees will tolerate part shade, but will achieve their densest foliage and heaviest fruiting when sited in full sun. Individual trees make outstanding lawn specimens, naturalistic plantings, or may be grouped to provide screening as a tall hedge. The branches provide shelter for wildlife, and are especially attractive to fruit-eating birds such as robins and bluebirds in winter.
Unlike the more familiar red-fruiting American holly, yellow-fruiting trees occur only rarely in the wild. Since the fruit color trait does not come true from seed, promising plants are propagated from rooted cuttings. Over 50 such selections have been named, and while availability varies by region, some of the more popular ones include ‘Canary’, ‘Goldie’, ‘Longwood Gardens’, ‘Villanova’, and ‘Princeton Gold’. Others are labeled only with the imprecise xanthocarpa, indicative of any yellow-fruited form. All are female clones, requiring a male American holly in the nearby landscape to set fruit.
Cultivation requirements are the same as for any American holly. Plant in any good garden soil, with adequate drainage, and provide water during the first season until established. Fertilize in late winter to early spring with a balanced general-purpose fertilizer, or with an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Pruning, if desired, is best done during dormancy, and as an added bonus the greens can be used in holiday decorations. Shearing of more formal hedges may be done in late spring.
The Holly Society of America provides additional resources, including ideas for landscaping with holly, frequently asked questions, and lists of suppliers.