I was traveling through Kentucky and picked up a copy of your magazine. I was wondering if holly trees would survive in Palmyra, WI (southern part of the state). My soil is quite sandy.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Sharon: There are a great number of trees and shrubs belonging to the Ilex genus, commonly known as hollies. I am not sure which USDA hardiness zone you are gardening in, but it is either 4A or 5B. You can check with your County Cooperative Extension Service to be certain. One of the most cold-hardy of all hollies is the deciduous shrub form Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). They are hardy to zone 3 so you can definitely grow these. They are not evergreen but the females produce wonderful berries that provide winter color, at least until the birds find them! They require a male pollinator for best fruit set. The Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra), which is also more of a shrub, is cold-hardy to zone 4. The American holly (Ilex opaca) is cold-hardy to zone 5, although some have survived temperatures as low as -25 degrees F. There are many cultivars of the American holly, which is a larger, tree-form evergreen. The Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is also hardy to zone 5. All hollies require full to part sun to thrive. This means they should ideally receive six hours of direct sun each day and no less than four. They are quite adaptable in terms of soil conditions, but they do prefer soil rich in organic matter. You can also call around to your local nurseries or garden centers to see what they recommend.