Dwarf Yaupon holly, a colorful berry shrub

Dwarf yaupon holly is a special variety of holly. Its leaves aren’t as prickly as other holly bush varieties, and its berries are sometimes ever more luminous!

Basic Dwarf Yaupon Holly facts

NameIlex vomitoria
FamilyIlex (holly family)
Type – evergreen

Exposure – full sun (part ok)
Height – up to 4 feet (125 cm)
Soil – any type

Planting dwarf yaupon holly in your garden is a guaranteed success for years of enjoyment!

How to plant dwarf yaupon holly

Dwarf yaupon holly will usually survive being planted in almost any season, as long as it isn’t freezing or searing hot.

  • Best time to plant, however, is spring.
  • Planting in fall is also possible, especially if winter in your area is mild (no freezing).

Read our guidelines on planting shrubs to get your planting right.

It’s also possible to grow dwarf yaupon holly in a pot or container. This is perfect for growing on a balcony. Simply use regular soil mix and check that the pot drains well (prevent water from collecting in a saucer under the pot).

Pruning dwarf yaupon holly

Dwarf yaupon holly grows slowly but regularly.

  • Pruning once every year or every two years is enough if you want to keep it smallish.
  • Dwarf yaupon holly is often grown in pots: if so, prune up to twice a year (spring and early fall) to keep it small.

Note about dwarf yaupon holly size

Dwarf yaupon holly shrub grown 8 feet (2.5m) wide in 30 years.Although it’s called “dwarf”, most varieties of small yaupon holly are simply slow-growing. Like boxwood, however, they can grow very old. Yaupon holly routinely reaches ages of 30, 50 and even 75 years!

During this time, if left unpruned, a dwarf yaupon holly shrub will keep growing at a rate of about 3 to 5 inches in width every year (7.5 to 12.5 cm), slightly less in height. This depends on growing conditions, of course. There are dwarf yaupon holly shrubs that are over 10 feet wide. Theoretically they can even grow to reach the size of non-dwarf varieties. This would be about 20 or even 30 feet wide and tall! However, such specimens are rare.

If you want to reduce the size of your dwarf yaupon holly, you should know that it can cope fairly well with severe pruning. New shoots will take off from the trunk and major branches. This is called hat racking, and should be reserved for holly and yaupon and boxwood but not much else.

  • Severe pruning is possible, but will leave your dwarf yaupon holly bare for the first few years, until it builds up a new canopy or set of leaves.
  • When grown in pots, dwarf yaupon holly might not grow as old. This is because potted plants have more stress and age faster.

Dwarf yaupon holly care

Watering dwarf yaupon holly

If planted in the ground, you’ll only need to water your dwarf yaupon holly at the beginning. It’ll need about a year to spread its roots out and settle in.

  • Once a year has passed, only water your dwarf yaupon holly in case of extreme drought or heat wave.

Fertilizer and dwarf yaupon holly

Fertilizer isn’t needed for your yaupon holly to bloom, produce berries or grow leaves. If you do fertilize, try to limit the amount of nitrogen contained in the fertilizer. If there’s too much, it might burn the shrub rootlets.

Diseases and dwarf yaupon holly pests

Dwarf yaupon holly is not vulnerable to any of the most common diseases: sooty mold, downy mildew, etc.

Pests such as aphids will only briefly set down on your dwarf yaupon holly, before lifting off to more favorable plants (like nasturtium).

No berries on dwarf yaupon holly

  • To have berries, you need to plant female dwarf yaupon cultivars with at least one male variety nearby.
  • In other words, cross-pollination is needed.

This shrub is a dioecious plant. This means each yaupon holly is either male or female. Male plants provide pollen and female plants provide eggs. This all happens in the flowers, which look different depending on the sex.

Most dwarf yaupon holly on the market for landscaping are clones. They were reproduced through cuttings and each is identical to the next. Only female specimens can bear berries, and they will only do so if a male specimen is planted nearby.

  • For example, you can plant the female ‘Nana’ dwarf yaupon holly type in a line to make a low-lying hedge, and plant a male ‘Condeaux’ in a nearby shrub bed.

Different dwarf yaupon holly varieties

Typically, the dwarf yaupon holly variety found in garden stores is Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’. However, there are a few other noteworthy dwarf yaupon holly species, listed here:

  • ‘Nana’ Dwarf yaupon holly – bright red berries and a dense, mounding shape. Compatible with being grown as a bonsai.
  • ‘Stokes Dwarf’ yaupon holly and ‘Shillings’ Dwarf yaupon holly – same plant. No berries (male).
  • ‘Condeaux’ Dwarf yaupon holly – commonly called “Bordeaux dwarf yaupon holly”. Also male, won’t bear fruit.

Learn more about dwarf yaupon holly

A full, dense dwarf yaupon holly bush with new, red-tinted leaves.Dwarf yaupon holly is one of those small, slow-growing bushes that does great in pots on a balcony or terrace.

It will constantly offer green leaves for show, even in the middle of winter. These are excellent for making tea! Usually, they’re roasted in an oven until they turn a rich brown color. Air-dry them beforehand for about a week, first.

Female specimens boast cute red berries from November to February, and will feed birds in winter, too. Don’t eat them or you’ll trigger throwing up. Leave them for the birds.

Although not strictly a heath plant, dwarf yaupon holly tolerates acidic soil. This is a valuable option when setting up a heath plant flower bed together with heather, camellia, wonderful Japanese maple and more!

Smart tip about dwarf yaupon holly

You can even grow dwarf yaupon holly in your beach house or along the coast, because it can cope with high levels of salt!

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Close-up of dwarf yaupon holly (also on social media) by David J. Stang under © CC BY-SA 4.0
Large overgrown dwarf yaupon holly by Keith Hall,
Nature & Garden contributor
Mounding dwarf yaupon holly by Kim & Forest Starr ★ under © CC BY 4.0