Holly is a popular evergreen shrub for hedges and specimen plants, but its main attraction has to be the red berries that are such a traditional part of Christmas celebrations. So a lot of people buy a holly tree – but then never see any berries – a big disappointment. This is because holly trees are separate male and female trees and most female trees will not produce berries without a male around. This means planting another tree – if of course you have enough room – just to get berries on your first tree, and the male tree will then never produce berries. All-in-all this is a bit of a nuisance, especially if you have a small garden. So at the Tree Center we decided to solve this problem for our customers. We talked to growers and experts and we found the Foster Holly.
Growing Foster Holly Trees
Foster Holly is a hybrid female holly tree that produces a bumper crop of bright-red berries just in time for Christmas, but this tree will do it all by herself, without needing a male tree at all. This is very unusual among hollies, but it makes the Foster Holly the perfect holly for every garden, especially if you don’t have room for more than one holly tree.
Size and Appearance
This vigorous small tree will grow 15 to 25 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide, if left untrimmed. It makes a great specimen in an open area, or a background plant, filling a corner of your garden behind other bushes. Since it is evergreen it also makes an excellent screening plant, as a row along the edge of your property. Since it can easily be trimmed, it is also a perfect choice for a hedge, especially since it will grown in partial shade and in full sun.
Foster Holly has evergreen leaves that are 2 to 3 inches long, with an irregular margin and several sharp, tiny spines on the leaf. These are not much of a problem, but they do mean that a well-clipped holly hedge is very unpleasant to push through and will deter most humans and animals from coming into your garden. The leaves are glossy, a rich olive-green in color and look attractive all year round. The tree usually grows with a single trunk and branches radiating off it, unless of course it has been pruned back, in which case it will develop multiple stems and a bushier appearance. This makes the Foster Holly very versatile, since it can be shaped to fit the purpose you have in mind.
Flowers and Berries
In spring small white flowers will appear on your tree, to be followed by a heavy crop of bright-red berries, which are produced without the need for a male tree to pollinate it. The berries will ripen before Christmas, just in time to decorate your home for the holiday season, and they will also stay colorful and attractive on the tree all winter. They are not edible but birds will often eat them.
Plant your Foster Holly in a sunny or partially-shaded location. It will grow in damp soil as well as ordinary garden soil, but once established it is also drought-resistant, so this is a great low-maintenance garden plant. It has no significant pests or diseases and is vigorous with a good growth-rate. It is hardy to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be grown in most of the country, from Ohio to Kansas and south, as well as all through the West.
Using as a Screen
To plant a screen of Foster Holly, space your trees 6 to 8 feet apart, depending on how quickly you want the screen to fill in. For a hedge, space the plants 3 feet apart and lightly clip from the first year, as your hedge grows, to develop a dense structure. Always keep the top of your hedge narrower than the bottom, so that you keep leaves growing right to the ground. Trim in late winter, before flowering, to get the maximum crop of berries, and trim again in late summer if necessary.
History and Origins of the Foster Holly
The Foster Holly is a hybrid between two American species of wild holly. One is the American Holly, Ilex opaca, which grows wild in eastern and central states. The other species is the Dahoon, Ilex cassine, which grows further south, from Virginia to Texas and even in Cuba. In the 1950s E. E. Foster, who owned Foster Nursery in Bessemer, Alabama, crossed these two plants and raised five seedlings. When these grew into full-sized plants it turned out that the plant he had called #2 was the best, since it was a female tree that produced a heavy crop of berries without a male tree being needed. Since then this tree has been grown and tested in many gardens, and is probably the best holly available to grow as a single tree.
Buying Foster Hollies at The Tree Center
As you can imagine, these plants must be carefully raised from stem cuttings taken from trees guaranteed to be the correct variety, so other cheaper holly bushes will not be the Foster Holly and will only be a disappointment, never producing berries for you from a single plant. At the Tree Center we strive to give our customers the best, and with the Foster Holly we really feel this is one of the best holly trees you can buy. Plants of this quality are always in high demand and our stocks are limited, so order a single specimen or several to make a beautiful hedge or screen. You will not be disappointed, but order now while stocks last.