Ilex opaca 'Maryland Dwarf'

Common Name: American holly
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Air Pollution


Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in locations protected from cold winter winds. Part afternoon shade best in hot summer climates. Avoid poorly drained soils. Prune in winter if needed. Plants of this species are dioecious (separate male and female plants). For a female plant to bear fruit, a male pollinator is needed. 'Maryland Dwarf' is an all-female cultivar.

Noteworthy Characteristics

'Maryland Dwarf' is a dwarf-spreading American holly cultivar which typically grows to 3' tall and spreads to as much as 10' wide. May grow slightly taller but is easily kept compact through regular pruning. Greenish-white flowers appear in May and are generally inconspicuous. Spiny-toothed, elliptical, glossy deep green leaves (2-4" long) are evergreen. Pollinated flowers give way to small red fruits which ripen in fall and persist throughout the winter. Even with good pollination, however, fruiting is usually rather sparse for this cultivar. Birds are attracted to the fruit. Opaca means opaque or dull, in reference to the non-lustrous leaf surfaces of species plants (many of the cultivars, including this one, have more lustrous foliage). The species is a Missouri native evergreen tree with a narrow pyramidal crown that typically grows 15-30' tall. 'Maryland Dwarf' is synonymous with and sometimes sold as 'Maryland Spreader'.


Potential insect problems include holly leaf miner, spider mites, whitefly and scale. Potential disease problems include leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot and powdery mildew. Plants are also susceptible to leaf drop, leaf scorch and chlorosis (yellowing of leaves in high pH soils).

Garden Uses

Specimen or small groups. Foundation plantings. Spreading hedge. Foliage and fruit provide good color for the winter landscape, and cuttings of the same are popular additions to Christmas wreaths and other decorations.