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Native alternative(s) for Ilex opaca 'Clarendon Spreading':
Ilex opaca Ilex opaca
Ilex vomitoria Ilex vomitoria
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Buxus sempervirens 'Vardar Valley'
Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens' Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens'
Spiraea japonica 'Limemound' Spiraea japonica 'Lime Mound' in a Paver Pathway Garden
Ilex opaca 'Clarendon Spreading' has some common insect problems:
Pests of Holly
Holly Pest Management Calendar

American Holly Ilex opaca 'Clarendon Spreading'

Other plants called American Holly:

Previously known as:

  • Ilex opaca 'Clarendon'
Phonetic Spelling
EE-leks oh-PAY-kah
Description

'Clarendon Spreading' is an all-female cultivar of the American holly in the Aquifoliaceae (holly) family.  The genus name Ilex is in reference to the similarity of the evergreen leaves to Quercus ilex or holm oak.  The specific epithet opaca means dull, dark or opaque in reference to the dullness of the leaf surface.

This broadleaf evergreen shrub grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide.  Plants have been known to live to 80 years.  It has alternate leaves with spiny toothed and sometimes smooth margins. The bark is gray-white in color and may be splotched or warty. Small, dull green-white, solitary flowers mature in late spring. Female specimens produce a bright red or orange fruit which matures in the fall and persists into the winter. Being dioecious, plant one male for every 6 female.  

The American holly is easily grown in average, consistently moist, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It will tolerate a broad range of soil conditions and is pollution tolerant, but will not tolerate flooding or soils saturated with moisture. For optimum growth avoid poorly drained soils. Its best growth in the wild usually occurs in rich bottomlands and swamp margins. It will not do well in locations not protected from cold winter winds and winter sun. Part afternoon shade is best in hot summer climates. Being situated in too much shade will cause the plant foliage to lose density.

Uses this low-growing shrub as a specimen or plant in small groups along a foundation or slope.  It makes an excellent small hedge and its dark green leaves and red fruits provide interest in a winter landscape. Branches from this species are often used in the creation of Christmas wreaths.  

Fire Risk: This plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Dull, dark green leaves are both entire and spiny.
  • Spines are evenly spaced and are long and sharp.
  • Leaves usually have a dull, dirty look.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Insects that can potentially cause issues are holly leaf miner, spider mites, scale and whitefly.  Diseases can include powdery mildew, leaf rot, leaf spot, and tar spot.   Planting in soils that have a high pH can cause leaf drop, leaf scorch, and chlorosis.  

VIDEO: Part of a series of Native Plant Picks from the North Carolina Sea Grant Coastal Landscapes Initiative.

Additional Ilex opaca video created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

Profile Video:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#low growing#specimen#winter interest#slopes#dwarf#air pollution tolerant#hedges#highly beneficial coastal plants#fire high flammability#deer resistant#dioecious#foundation planting#long lifespan#evergreen shrub#evergreen tree#urban conditions tolerant#small group plantings#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#winter garden#Christmas decorations#bee friendly#host plant#wet soils intolerant#low hedge#butterflies#coastal
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#low growing#specimen#winter interest#slopes#dwarf#air pollution tolerant#hedges#highly beneficial coastal plants#fire high flammability#deer resistant#dioecious#foundation planting#long lifespan#evergreen shrub#evergreen tree#urban conditions tolerant#small group plantings#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#winter garden#Christmas decorations#bee friendly#host plant#wet soils intolerant#low hedge#butterflies#coastal
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ilex
    Species:
    opaca
    Family:
    Aquifoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Landscape
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Stem Cutting
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds love to eat the berries. Attractive for bees. It is the host plant for Henrys Elfin butterfly.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Colorful
    Screening
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The showy red-orange berries draw birds to feast on the winter fruits.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small, insignificant greenish-white flowers bloom in the spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Glossy, olive green leaves. As the leaves age, they become thick and leathery.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    White
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth, but looses its smoothness as it ages.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Multistemmed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Pond
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Fairy Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Urban Conditions
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns