During any season, holly trees add beauty to the East Texas landscape. But while there are many well-known and loved varieties of holly, not all of them can tolerate our hot, humid summers.

The Nellie R. Stevens (Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens') offers heat tolerance along with traditional holly beauty. It has the excellent vigor of most hybrids and also grows more rapidly than some other types.

Nellie R. Stevens is a broadly pyramidal tree that can reach 30 to 40 feet tall, though more commonly grows to the 15 to 25 foot range. It is tolerant of our area's heavy soils and can also withstand drought. It performs best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Give it a location with the best drainage available as consistently wet sites can damage its roots.

Nellie R. Stevens has typical holly foliage that is glossy, deep green and remains densely beautiful year-round. It also is a prolific producer of bright red berries and has the advantage - unlike many other holly varieties - of not requiring a male tree nearby to produce fruit. The red clusters will be beautiful in winter until late February or early March, when a flock of cedar waxwings may swoop in and eat all the berries. A new crop will then appear in spring.

Nellie R. Stevens can be used singly or in mass plantings. A row placed five feet apart and left unpruned will quickly grow to make a perfect hedge.

Suzanne Gates, Smith County Master Gardener

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