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How to get berries on your Hollies

A male Holly is required for cross-pollination

By: Sandy Feather 2007
Penn State Extension


Q. I have a 'Blue Girl' holly that does not get any fruit. What is the best male holly to use for a pollinator?

A. All hollies (Ilex spp.) are dioecious, which means that male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. You must have both male and female plants in order for the female plants to produce a crop of berries. Blue hollies (Ilex x meserveae) have been bred and released as named pairs to ensure that male and female plants bloom at the same time.

 

holly berries

If you have a mismatched pair, and their bloom times do not overlap, you will not get good pollination, and will have little, if any, fruit on the female plant(s). 'Blue Girl's' preferred mate is 'Blue Boy.' 

Other commonly available blue holly pairs include: 'Blue Princess' and 'Blue Prince'; 'Blue Maid' and 'Blue Stallion'; and 'China Girl' and 'China Boy.' If you do not know what cultivar of female blue holly you have, 'Blue Stallion' is recommended as the pollinator because it is known to have longer period of bloom than other male cultivars.
  

Blue Princess Holly
Blue Princess Holly

Before you rush out to buy 'Blue Boy' or 'Blue Stallion,' check the flowers on your existing blue holly. Fruitless hollies may be male plants, or female plants that were not pollinated. It is easy to tell which sex your holly is when it is in bloom. The female flower has a small green fruit-to-be in the center of its white petals. Male flowers have yellow stamens - pollen bearing structures - in the centers. Do not assume that the holly labeled as 'Blue Girl,' is really a female unless it has had fruit on it, or had fruit on it when you bought it. Tags can fall off and be replaced on the wrong plant. And if the hollies were tagged when they were not in bloom, it would be tough to tell the girls from the boys.

holly flowers

One male plant can pollinate three to five females, and should be planted within 50 feet of them for the best fruit set.

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