Dwarf evergreen shrubs are an essential way to bring stability and calm to your garden, creating a tranquil and sturdy image. Too many deciduous and perennial plants leave to many open spaces in winter, while evergreens are always lush and green. Since they often form the background of a garden, we don’t want plants that need a lot of care, and for easy-care with an attractive look, the Dwarf Yaupon Holly is a fantastic choice. This compact shrub grows about 3 feet tall, reaching 5 feet in time, and spreading about the same distances, making a dense, rounded mound. It can easily be clipped to keep it much smaller if needed, and it is a great choice for short to medium hedges. It can be clipped into a variety of forms too, and it is a great choice for topiary, in the garden or in planters and pots. Grow it as part of the foundation planting around your home, where its low form fits well beneath most windows. Use it among other shrubs, to fill spaces and give structure. It is ideal for mass planting to fill large areas of the garden with lower plants that don’t obscure views and other plants.
Growing Dwarf Yaupon Holly Trees
The leaves of the Dwarf Yaupon Holly are ½ to 1½ inches long, rounded and smooth, with a glossy surface. Young leaves are bright yellow-green, and they mature to a rich, dark green that is perfect with all other plants in the garden, and as a neutral backdrop to brighter colors. Although it is a holly, the thick, leathery leaves are neatly rounded ovals, with a finely-serrated edge, but without spines. The natural branching structure is dense and twiggy, and without trimming these plants make excellent mounds of green, with a more relaxed, informal look that suits modern gardens well. Like all holly trees, the yaupon holly has separate male and female trees and this dwarf form is derived from a female tree. It has tiny white flowers in the angles between the leaves and branches, in spring. Without a male plant – you will need a different variety – few or no berries are produced, and this variety does not produce heavy crops of berries, even when pollinator trees are in the area.
The Dwarf Yaupon Holly grows well in a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to all degrees of partial shade. It will not grow so well in full shade, especially not beneath dense evergreen trees. It tolerates a wide range of soils, from dry, sandy soils to moist ones and even tolerates periodic flooding, but not soils that are constantly wet. Once established it is very drought tolerant, and it also tolerated salt spray, so it is a great choice for the seaside. It is much more resistant to hot, dry winds than almost all other evergreen hollies, including Japanese holly. It has no significant pests or diseases, and it is very easy to grow this plant almost anywhere. It can be trimmed at any time of year. When trimming, keep the bottom always wider than the top, or the lower branches will die, leaving it bare and less attractive. For hedges, space your plants 12 to 18 inches apart for a very low hedge, and up to 3 feet apart for taller hedges. Always space evenly, to avoid gaps. When mass planting, space 2 feet apart for a continuous flow, and 3 feet apart for each plant to keep its separate identity. The compact habit of this plant means it will still grow dense and neat without any trimming, so why not put away the shears and enjoy its natural form?
History and Origins of Dwarf Yaupon Holly Trees
The Dwarf Yaupon Holly is a selected form of the yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria. This is one of several hollies that grow wild in North America. It can be found from coastal Maryland down through the Carolinas into northern Florida and along through the gulf states into Texas and Oklahoma. It often grows in sand dunes by the coast, an indication of just how drought resistant and salt-spray resistant it is. The winter berries are an important food for a wider range of native birds and animals, from wild turkey to cedar waxwings, bears and raccoons. The name ‘yaupon’ comes from the Catawban language spoken by some native American tribes, and it means ‘small tree’. The leaves contain caffeine, and a tea made from them was used in the Civil War as a substitute, and by native Americans as a purifier since larger doses induce vomiting and diarrhea. Consume at home with caution.
Wild trees grow 15 to 30 feet tall, with a similar spread, but most garden forms are significantly smaller. The variety called ‘Nana’ is also called ‘Compacta’, and the origin of this female tree has been lost, but it probably originated as a seedling with unusually compact growth. Since then it has been reproduced by stem pieces, not seed, to preserve that dwarf habit, and this is how our plants are grown. It takes longer, but the result is uniform dwarf plants ideal for hedges and mass planting. We have a good supply of top-quality material, but this popular and reliable shrub sells fast, so order now while our stock lasts – it will be gone very soon.