Dahoon Holly Care: How To Plant Dahoon Holly Trees

Dahoon Holly Care: How To Plant Dahoon Holly Trees

By: Laura Miller

If you’re looking for an interesting species of tree foryour landscaping needs, consider dahoon holly trees (Ilex cassine). Thisnative holly species typically stays under 30 feet (9 m.) in height when usedas a landscape tree. It has a moderate growth rate and at maximum height itwill reach about a 12- to 15-foot (3.7 to 4.5 m.) spread.

At this size, dahoon holly trees are big enough to providean attractive amount of shade, but not so big they take over the yard ortotally hide the front of the house. Additionally, when grown in pairs (one maleand one female), dahoon hollies produce an abundance of red berries thatadorn the branches in fall and winter. These berries provide food for wildlifeand will attract various bird species and squirrels.

Where to Plant Dahoon Holly

Dahoon holly trees, also known as cassena, are warm climateevergreens and are hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11. They are native to NorthAmerican swamplands and bogs and thrive in moist soils. Once established, theyare tolerant of drier conditions but tend to stay smaller in stature.

Due to its moderate size and toleranceof salt spray, the dahoon holly makes excellent specimen trees for plantingaround parking lots, in highway median strips, and alongside residentialstreets and sidewalks. The dahoon holly has been very adaptable of urbansettings and can endure the air pollution commonly found in cities.

How to Plant Dahoon Holly

Dahoon holly trees prefer full sun, but easily adapts topartial shady locations. They grow well in a variety of soil types includingclay, loamy or sandy conditions. Homeowners should locate underground utilitiesbefore digging. Consideration should be given to the overall height and widthof the mature tree when selecting a location near buildings, other trees and overheadpower lines.

When planting dahoon holly trees, dig a hole the depth of itscontainer or root ball, but 2 to 3 times as wide. Carefully remove the treefrom the container and gently set it in the hole. Backfill the hole with nativesoil, ensuring the base of the tree is slightly above ground level. Firmly packthe soil as you go to prevent air pockets.

Thoroughly water the tree and continue to regularly providewater for the first year. Applying a 2- to 3-inch (5-7.6 cm.) layer of mulchwill help the soil retain moisture.

Dahoon Holly Care

Dahoon holly care is fairly straightforward. Onceestablished, they require very little maintenance pruning. Their branches areresistant to breakage and, as an evergreen species, there are no autumn leavesto clean up. Additionally, the berries remain on the tree and don’t create alitter issue.

Dahoon holly information indicates this species has fewissues with pests or diseases. It’s also not known to be susceptible to verticilliumwilt. Overall, it you’re looking for a low maintenance moderately-sizedtree that’s beneficial to wildlife, the dahoon holly might meet your needs.

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Read more about Holly Bushes



Trees of small size, or shrubs. Leaves simple, alternate, petioled. Flowers minute, axillary, dioecious or polygamous. Fruit, a berry-like drupe.

The holly family is distributed in every continent, and ranges from the North Temperate to the South Temperate zones. Many species are tropical. They are all trees or shrubs, the centre of whose distribution seems to be in South America. Of the 175 species, about seventy are found in northern Brazil.

The mate, or Paraguay tea, to which the people of South America are addicted as North Americans are to tea and coffee, is made of the dried and powdered leaves of two holly trees of Paraguay. Chief of these is Ilex Paraguariensis. These are the most important species, in a commercial sense. "Yerba mate" has a remarkable stimulating effect upon the human system, fortifying it for incredible exertion and endurance. Indulged in to excess, it has much the same effect as alcohol.

China and Japan have thirty different species of hollies, some of which are coming into cultivation in America. Europe has but one species. America has fourteen, four of which assume tree form the rest are shrubby "winterberries."

There are 153 distinct varieties of the European Ilex Aquifolium in cultivation. No more popular ornamental is grown. The Englishman looks out upon his bloomless garden in winter time:

"And sees the clustered berries bright
Among the holly's gay green leaves."

It is more, I think, than a poet's fancy that holly leaves are dull in summer in contrast with other foliage, only to gleam brilliant as polished leather when other broad-leaved trees are bare. The fell-fare, a little thrush, eats these tempting red berries in winter, to the disgust of narrow-minded gardeners.

Ilex is the name by which the holm oak of southern Europe has always been popularly known. Its leaf resembles that of the holly with which it grows in the wild. Linnaeus dropped the old name, Aquifolium (sharp leaf), which the holly had been called.

The European species became Ilex Aquifolium and the oak Quercus Ilex. Its sharp leaf, far more spiny and deeply cleft than that of our species, and the lustrous sheen of leaf and scarlet berry make the European holly handsomer than the American. Its specific name, opaca, meaning dull, reminds us of the inferiority of the latter. Holly and mistletoe are inseparably linked in traditions of the English Christmas. The Druid feasts gave these two plants prominent places in pagan rites, and they have come down to modern times with few changes. Old chroniclers and ballad makers kept the ancient usages fresh in mind, and to-day the English gentleman re-enacts the customs of his forefathers right loyally, as he celebrated Christmas with all his tenantry in the great hall.

"The mistletoe hung in the castle hall
And the holly branch hung on the old oak wall
The baron's retainers were blythe and gay
Keeping their Christmas holiday."

Away back of the Christian Era, not the Druids only, but the pagan tribes of Continental Europe, especially those under the rule of Rome, sent holly branches to each other as token of goodwill, and decked their dwellings with them in celebration of the feast of the Saturnalia-"the turning of the sun."

The gradual lengthening of the days in late December mitigated the cold which brought so much suffering to rich and poor in the crude dwellings of the times. Yuletide, the feast of the Celtic sun god, Yaioul, gradually and naturally gave way to the later celebration of Christmas. The Aquifolium became the Christthorn, or Christdorn -the "holy tree," afterward called "holly." It was regarded by devout people as a symbol of the Saviour's crown of thorns.

Though only half hardy in the latitude of New York and Boston, many varieties of Ilex Aquifolium are to be found in American gardens, and where necessary are tied up in straw for the winter. The beauty of these little trees amply repays all the care they cost. Just one of the American species, I. opaca, might be confused with this one.

Hollies are multiplied by ripened wood cuttings, by grafting and budding, and by seeds, which germinate the second year after planting. The seedlings require transplanting after their second year of growth. Evergreen hollies must be stripped of all their leaves whenever transplanted. Young trees are moved with comparative safety. The best time is early fall or early spring.

The hollies introduced from Japan include the species I. latifolia, a large tree in its native land, with long, glossy leaves and large red berries in abundance. This is one of the most beautiful and hardy trees in the family. I. Sieboldi, is a slender shrub with dainty leaves and scarlet berries. It is like the native black alder, but smaller in all its parts. Two forms of this species are grown.

Of our native shrubby hollies, the two winterberries, I. laevigata and I. verticellata, are far the most ornamental. The latter is the black alder, found from Canada to the Gulf, and west to Wisconsin and Missouri. Its leaves blacken after heavy frost, but the abundant red berries remain, untouched by birds, late into the winter. It is one of the best of hardy shrubs for winter brightness in the shrubby border. Its fruit-laden branches gathered in the wild are sold for Christmas decorations.

American Holly Tree
Dahoon Holly Tree
Mountain Holly Tree
Swamp Holly or Meadow Holly Tree
Yaupon Holly Tree

Plants→Ilex→Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit:Shrub
Life cycle:Perennial
Sun Requirements:Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet Mesic
Soil pH Preferences:Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Slightly alkaline (7.4 – 7.8)
Minimum cold hardiness:Zone 7a -17.8 °C (0 °F) to -15 °C (5 °F)
Maximum recommended zone:Zone 11
Plant Height :15 to 30 feet
Plant Spread :8 to 12 feet
Edible to birds
Other: 1/4 inch yellow, orange or red fleshy berries
Fruiting Time:Late winter or early spring
Late fall or early winter
Flower Color:White
Other: Male flowers are greenish-white, female flowers are white
Bloom Size:Under 1"
Flower Time:Spring
Late spring or early summer
Suitable Locations:Street Tree
Uses:Windbreak or Hedge
Wildlife Attractant:Bees
Humidity tolerant
Drought tolerant
Salt tolerant
Propagation: Other methods:Cuttings: Stem
Containers:Not suitable for containers
Miscellaneous: Dioecious

Dahoon Holly is a small tree native to the eastern part of the United States from Virginia to Florida and west to Louisiana. It attains heights of @ 30 feet and is often found in wet locations and swampy areas. The leaves of the Dahoon Holly have smooth edges with just a few small sharp teeth. This particular Holly will grow in full sun as well as dense shade and prefers wet areas but will adapt to dry situations if watered well during dry periods.

In Florida, the Dahoon holly is a protected species. It's listed by the Florida Department of Agriculture as a commercially exploited species. Wild populations should not be disturbed.


Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


This document is ENH458, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

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