Dahoon Holly Plant Profile

dahoon holly

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Are you looking for a low-maintenance evergreen that will add color to your garden in the cooler months? Dahoon Holly displays white flowers in spring, and when planted in male-female pairs, produces red berries that birds and squirrels love to eat. This tree of the Ilex cassine genus attracts cedar waxwings, mockingbirds, and robins among other types of birds looking for food in fall and winter.

Dahoon Holly is not only beneficial to wildlife, but also very adaptable. It will thrive along sidewalks, around parking lots, and even on the side of the highway. In a residential setting, it is recommended for shade around patios or to form a hedge along a property line. Ideal for landscaping, the tree can be tightly clipped or free to grow naturally into a single, grey bark trunk. Leaves have only a few serrations on the tip and lack the spines or teeth of the American Holly. They are two to three inches long, oval-shaped, shiny dark green and smooth. Cuttings make beautiful centerpieces for the holiday season.

Botanical Name Ilex cassine
Common Name Dahoon Holly
Plant Type Perennial evergreen tree
Mature Size 40 feet tall and 12 to 15 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Moist to well-drained
Soil pH Acid (<6.0)
Bloom Time Spring to early summer
Flower Color White (female) and greenish white (male)
Hardiness Zones 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Native Area Southeastern North America
Toxicity Toxic to cats, dogs, and horses
Dahoon holly
Ilex cassine / Getty Images

How to Grow Dahoon Holly

This evergreen tree is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11. To welcome the Dahoon Holly into your garden, plant in cool weather. It can grow up to 40 feet in height, though generally mature trees reach between 20 and 30 feet. Give its roots plenty of space to grow, as they will spread 12 to 15 feet. Dig a hole the same depth as the container and two to three times as wide. Fill the hole and firmly pack the soil, so that the base remains a bit above ground level. Watch berries bring vibrant color to an otherwise fading landscape in fall and winter. By day in spring and summer, bathe in the shade created by this holly's gentle foliage.


Dahoon Holly will grow in partial shade where it may receive direct sunlight for two to six hours of the day. But it truly thrives in full sun where the crown can grow fuller. Native to southeastern North America and popular in Florida, it does best in USDA Zones 8 and 9, according to the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute. It will also endure the humidity in Zone 10A.


This tree is often grown in urban settings because of its ability to thrive in polluted air, poor drainage, compacted soil. Common in the swamps and forests of Florida, Dahoon Holly benefits from moist soils. It will grow in clay, loam or sand soils, but if the soil is naturally dry, the roots require regular watering.


After planting, cover the soil with two inches of mulch to retain moisture. Water the roots thoroughly during the first year. Be sure to water more often during periods of drought. Without proper watering, the roots will reach for any source of moisture and become stressed. If the area experiences long-term flooding by brackish water, Dahoon Holly does have a low tolerance for salt water but will tolerate salt wind. The plant naturally protects itself from the salt that may be sprayed on other neighboring plants, making it a durable option in urban settings.

Propagation of Dahoon Holly

Dahoon Holly can be slowly propagated by seeds, which germinate in one year. Cuttings are more effective as they grow faster treated with a rooting hormone, and they will adopt the sex of the parent plant. Holly cuttings need to be three to five inches long. A humid environment minimizes the loss of water.


An established Dahoon Holly requires little maintenance. Branches rarely break and as an evergreen, there will be no autumn leaves falling to clean up. Throughout winter, the berries stay on the branches. To maintain dense foliage occasional pruning is recommended. This will help the tree grow strong and structured. The canopy has a rather open habit that many owners are fond of, creating a drooping effect for an effective privacy screen.

Being Grown in Containers

This tree can be grown in pots. Being a naturally slender, well-behaved plant, Dahoon Holly can even be grown as a bonsai tree.

Common Pests and Diseases

Nearly maintenance-free, Dahoon Holly rarely suffers from disease. It is not susceptible to verticillium wilt, a fungal disease common to many other trees and shrubs. Sometimes a twig gall forms in response to a fungus infection.

Only in a dry environment is it vulnerable to pests (another reason to plant this holly in a more humid location). Mites, leaf miner and spittlebug insects can infect the foliage. Scale insects suck juices from leaves and stems. These scale insects secrete "honeydew," where a black mold fungus is prone to grow. In North Florida, if the leaves drop to the ground, it is a sign that spittlebugs have sucked the plant's juices, too.

Though with proper care, Dahoon Holly should be free of any issues. Generally, this holly is at home in moist, warm locations where it will provide a shady privacy screen year-round and cheerful color throughout the seasons.