Ilex × attenuata
Common Name: topal holly 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Native Range: Southern United States
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 12.00 to 25.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 18.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest, Thorns
Tolerate: Air Pollution


Easily grown in acidic, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best fruit production occurs in full sun, but plants generally appreciate some part afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Best sited in locations protected from cold winter winds. Avoid poorly drained soils. Mulch will help retain soil moisture and deter weed growth. Prune in winter if needed. Plants are dioecious (separate male and female plants). In order to set fruit, female plants will need a nearby male pollinator. Plants are not reliably winter hardy throughout USDA Zone 5.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ilex × attenuata is a naturally occuring hybrid originally found growing in the wild in Florida in 1924. It is a cross between I. cassine (dahoon) and I. opaca (American holly), both of which parents share native territory in the far southeastern U.S. (particularly from coastal North Carolina to Florida). This hybrid is a conical evergreen shrub or small tree that grows over time to 12-25’ tall or more, unless pruned shorter. It is commonly called topel holly, although some of the named cultivars thereunder have different common names (e.g. I. x attenuata 'Fosteri' plants are commonly called foster hollies). Hybrid cultivars grow in a variety of different forms and habits, but generally exhibit (a) spiny, elliptic to obovate-lanceolate evergreen leaves (to 3” long) with attenuated bases, (b) insignificant greenish-white spring flowers and (c) showy, pea-sized, red fruits that persists over winter. Fruits are ornamentally attractive. Birds are attracted to the fruit.

Genus name comes from the Latin name Quercus ilex for holm oak in reference to the foliage similarities (holm oak and many of the shrubs in the genus Ilex have evergreen leaves).

The hybrid name attenuata means narrowing to a point, possibly in reference to the growth habit of this hybrid.

Popular hybrid cultivars sold in commerce today include ‘Fosteri’, ‘Savannah’ and ‘East Palatka’.


Potential insect problems include holly leaf miner, spittlebugs, 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).


Hedges or screens. Specimen or small groups. Foundation plantings. Foliage and fruit provide good color for the winter landscape. Train as a small tree.