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Plant Profile: Nellie Stevens Holly (Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’)

There are many beautiful hollies that do well in moderate climates but Nellie Stevens is one of the best. It combines a highly desirable conical shape with glossy dark green foliage, abundance of bright red berries, and fast growth. As a hybrid of English holly (I. aquifollium) and Chinese hollies (I. cornutum) it combines the beauty of the former and the drought tolerance of the latter. It can be used as a hedge, screen, or specimen and its branches are lovely in holiday arrangements.

Type: Evergreen tree.

Outstanding Feature: Fast grown, conical shape, shiny foliage, red berries.

Form: Conical.

Growth Rate: Rapid.

Bloom: Small inconspicuous white flowers in spring mature into bright red berries by fall.

Size: 20-25’ H x 10-15’ W.

Light: Sun to partial shade but stays more compact in full sun.

Soil: Prefers moist well-drained, acidic soil but adapts to less if wet feet avoided.

Fertilizer: Apply a slow release fertilizer in spring or early fall being careful not to over fertilize.

Hardiness: Zones 6-9.

Care: In the early years prune in winter or early summer to produce an attractive shape; remove dead fallen leaves and keep mulched year round.

Pests and Diseases: Scale insects, aphids, and leaf miners can be a problem.

Propagation: Semi-ripe cuttings in summer or early fall.

Comments: May produce some fruit even if not pollinated but pollination by I. cornuta will ensure berry production. Birds such as woodpeckers, robins, cedar waxwings, and mockingbirds like ‘Nellie Stevens’ for both food and nesting.

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