Landscape shrubs that have been identified as dwarf are a boon to low-maintenance yards as they are easier to keep within bounds, “Dwarf” can be a relative term in relation to what a normal growing plant would look like. Take for example the common shrub called ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ holly. ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ holly is a dwarf cultivar of the native yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria. While a normal yaupon holly may be up to twenty-five feet in height, the ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ barely gets over four feet tall and six-feet wide when pruned. A common shrub for foundation and mass plantings, ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ and other similar dwarf holly cultivars are great landscape selections.
‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ has small dark green, quarter inch-long, serrated, but not spiny, leaves that give a fine texture to this shrub. New flushes of leaves are red in color and then change to green. This is a male cultivar, so no berries are normally produced. Besides its relatively small size, ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ is also very drought tolerant once established and highly salt-tolerant. As such, it is a candidate for seaside plantings. Plant this holly in full sun to part shade for best results, spaced four to five feet apart if you are establishing a mass planting. Although slow growing, ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ should still be given room to grow especially along walkways and driveways. Remember, this shrub will tend to grow wider than it is taller. That little one-gallon holly will slowly, but surely, fill in over the years and the less pruning you have to do with this already mini-plant, the better.
‘Nana’ is another dwarf cultivar of yaupon holly that has a thick, naturally rounded form that rarely produces berries. New leaves emerge with a hint of yellow coloration. ‘Nana’ comes in a little smaller than ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ with a mature height of three to five feet and a spread of three to six feet. One last dwarf cultivar of yaupon holly to mention is ‘Bordeaux’. ‘Bordeaux’ is more compact than ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ with a height of two to three feet and a spread of three to five feet. This cultivar also does not produce berries.
As these dwarf hollies are already dwarf, keep pruning to a minimum, if possible, with proper spacing. If pruned, keep the bottom of the plant wide for best sun exposure and growth. Excessive and improper pruning can trigger fungal problems and dieback. As a result, open, dead areas sometimes appear on ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’. The literature indicates that excessive shearing makes the plants more compact which holds more moisture on the leaves. Excess irrigation will also provide an environment conducive to fungal growth. Dense plantings also decrease air circulation which makes disease more likely. Things to do would include reducing irrigation to established plants, reduce shearing and let the plant grow out a bit. Application of an ornamental shrub fungicide as per label directions after removing any dead portions could also be considered. You might even want to replace individual plants that are in really bad shape.
In conclusion, the ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ holly, and it’s kin, are a real must for low-maintenance landscapes that combines a natural neat appearance with minimum growth. For more information on dwarf plants suitable for our area, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco.
Gilman, E. F. (2014) Ilex vomitoria ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’, ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ Holly. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
Park Brown, S. (2021) Hollies at a Glance. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2018) Dwarf Hollies
Moffis, B. (2021) Shrubs in the Florida Garden. The University of Florida Extension, IFAS – Lake County
MacCubbin, T. (2013) Shearing can contribute to yaupon holly decline. In the Garden – Plant Doctor, Orlando Sentinel
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS