Question of the Week – Number Three: December 3, 2020

“Why doesn’t my yaupon holly have any berries? I bought it to have red berries in the winter. Do I need a second plant nearby?”

I’m going to back into my answer. I’ll start with your very last sentence – your second question. Yes, possibly. You might need to have another plant nearby. That’s because yaupon hollies are dioecious.

To a botanist, that’s all the answer that is needed. But to the average gardener, it just made things more confusing than ever.

Yaupon hollies bear their male and female flower parts on separate plants. One plant supplies the pollen (carried by bees), while another plant (somewhere nearby) will have the pistils and ovules that will become the berries (if they receive pollen).

If you look closely you can see the stamens rising out of the flowers. Those bear the anthers on which pollen is carried. These are male flowers. This is a male yaupon holly.

But, as I mentioned, you might have bought a male plant. If it was one that was dug out of nature, there is a 50-50 chance of that happening. Male plants will never bear fruit. (You were probably ahead of me on that one.)

Continued Below

This is obviously a female plant that is loaded with berries. As long as this plant is pollinated each spring while it’s blooming, it will always bear fruit.

If your plant ever bore fruit, then you have a female plant and there is hope that it will bear fruit again.

You need to be sure that it is healthy and vigorous and growing well. Flowers are produced on yaupons’ prior year’s growth.

You need to be sure that you have a male, pollen-producing plant within a block of your house.

And you need to be sure that bees are actively working your plant at the time that it’s blooming. Bees love hollies. You ought to be able to see dozens of them flying on a bright, warm day in spring when the tiny yaupon flowers are open.

Good luck! Maybe next year will be your year!

Posted by Neil Sperry
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