How to Grow and Care for Yaupon Holly

Yaupon holly shrub with bright red berries clustered under branch

The Spruce / Loren Probish

The yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is an evergreen shrub or small tree with green leaves and red berries that add vibrance to your garden throughout the year but is considered a holiday plant for its green and red color combination. Native to the southeastern U.S., yaupon holly is often planted as an informal hedge shrub or privacy screen since it requires minimal shaping and is available in several attractive slow-growing cultivars. The plant bears glossy green, oval leaves up to one inch long and features fine-toothed margins. Yaupon hollies produce little greenish-white male or female flowers in the spring, though only the females will bear fruit—small berries that are usually red but sometimes yellow. Yaupon holly berries are toxic to humans and animals.

Common Name Youpon holly, yaupon, cassina
Botanical Name  Ilex vomitoria
Family Aquifoliaceae
Plant Type Shrub, tree
Mature Size 10-30 ft. tall, 8-12 ft. width
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Sandy
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Greenish, red
Hardiness Zones  7-9 (USDA)
Native Area North America
Toxicity Toxic to people , toxic to pets

Yaupon Holly Care

Yaupon holly is one of the more tolerant holly shrubs and does well in various soil types, moisture levels, pH levels, and sun exposures. Once roots are well established, yaupon hollies are drought-resistant and transplant very easily. After planting, apply mulch at the base of the plant to keep the soil moist and cool. Light annual pruning is recommended, especially if you grow the plant as a hedge. Plants being grown as small trees require more diligent pruning.

Yaupon holly is free of many problems plaguing other hollies, with good resistance to most diseases and pests. Potential diseases include leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot, and powdery mildew. The shrubs have occasional issues with leafminers, spider mites, whitefly, and scale.

Yaupon holly shrub with red berry clusters between branches of oval leaves

The Spruce / Loren Probish

Yaupon holly shrub with dense branches of oval leaves and red berries hanging in clusters

The Spruce / Loren Probish

Light

Yaupon holly tolerates full and partial sun. However, growth in full sun will yield more berries.

Soil

The yaupon holly prefers sandy soil but grows well in diverse soil compositions. It has a high tolerance for salty soil, making it a good choice for planting near the ocean. It's best to plant a yaupon holly in moist, dry, acidic, or alkaline soil.

Water

Yaupon hollies are not drought resistant and need to be watered regularly. Water the root ball twice or three times a week during the plant's first year and then weekly. Use rainwater and distilled water rather than tap water and water during the morning or evening.

Temperature and Humidity

The yaupon holly can adapt to various climates but prefers slightly cooler and humid weather. It may struggle to survive winters at the higher end of its hardiness range. Yaupon hollies are generally cold-resistant.

Fertilizer

You can fertilize your yaupon holly lightly once in the spring and fall, and be sure not to fertilize during planting. You may apply a thin layer of mulch to the ground but avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers.

Types of Yaupon Holly

  • Folsom Weeping
  • Nana/Compacta
  • Pride of Houston
  • Schilling's Dwarf/Stokes Dwarf
  • Will Flemming

Pruning

While typically unnecessary, you can lightly prune a yaupon holly to maintain your desired shape or limit disease spread. If the tree is small, prune the lower side branches. If the tree is small, prune the lower side branches. You can rejuvenate badly overgrown shrubs by cutting away up to one-third of the branches. Cut selected stems down the base of the plant. When shaping as a hedge, cut the ends of branches back to 1/4 inch above a node facing the direction you want the branch to grow. Cut away suckers from the base of the plant as they appear unless your goal is to encourage the shrub to grow into a thicket.

Propagating Yaupon Holly

Yaupon holly is best propagated from small, semi-hardwood cuttings taken in the fall. Here's how to propagate a yaupon holly:

  1. Select small branches and sever the cutting below a set of leaves
  2. Remove the lower leaves, then coat the cut end with a rooting hormone
  3. Place the cutting in a mixture of perlite and coarse sand, and keep the cutting moist and warm until roots develop
  4. After 8 to 10 weeks, you can transplant the cutting into a large pot filled with a loam/sand mix
  5. Transplant to a permanent location

How to Grow Yaupon Holly From Seeds

  1. Select berries and remove their outer flesh
  2. Place a soil mixture of 1/2 loam and 1/2 perlite into a 4 inch pot, leaving some room at the top
  3. Cover the seeds with loam and a thin layer of sand
  4. Cover with plastic and place them on a 70˚F heating coil
  5. Move the pots into a refrigerator and store them there for two to three months
  6. Move the pots to a partially shaded area and remove the plastic
  7. Grow in partial shade for the first summer and winter
  8. Transplant in the spring

Potting and Repotting

You can pot a yaupon holly in any pot as long as it has adequate drainage, but heavy pots made of wood and terracotta are ideal. Fill your container with potting soil, loosen the plant's roots with your fingers, and insert the shrub. Keep the soil moist and fertilize every one to two weeks.

Overwintering

The yaupon holly does well during winter and can survive in low temperatures. You may prune the shrub lightly or bundle its branches with ropes to prevent damage from heavy snowfall.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Yaupon hollies are susceptible to several pests and diseases. The most common pest found in yaupon hollies is leafminers. The eggs hatch quickly and can cause discoloration and holes in the leaves. You should remove damaged leaves manually to stop a further infestation and spray an insecticide on the plant. Remove affected leaves and adjust watering and fertilization practices as needed. Yaupon hollies can develop fungal diseases, such as black root rot and tar spot, which thrive in poorly drained soil. 

Common Problems With Yaupon Holly

The yaupon holly tends to be disease and pest-resistant, except for rare infestation and disease and the resulting damage. As with any tree, pay attention to its general health and the possible presence of insects.

FAQ
  • How long do yaupon hollies live?

    Yaupon hollies can live between 30 and 75 years.

  • What plants are similar to yaupon hollies?

    The yaupon holly is similar to many other hollies in its family. The Japanese holly is nearly identical to the yaupon holly but doesn't grow berries. Remember, all hollies present some level of toxicity.

  • Can you grow a yaupon holly indoors?

    You can grow a yaupon holly indoors, but more careful pruning will be necessary to control the spread. If you have a pet, be wary of fallen berries.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Holly Berries. Poison Control.

  2. Poisonous Plants. ASPCA.