This article was reviewed by Steve Snedeker, professional landscaper.
One of the most desired qualities in a new home is privacy. When most people settle into their houses, they want the ability to sit on their porches or throw backyard parties without neighbors watching them.
Trees can provide a great amount of privacy for people; they protect yards from wandering eyes, yet they offer a sense of peace and beauty that private fences don't offer.
In particular, holly trees are wonderful privacy screens because they have dense foliage that makes for a sturdy wall.
5 of the best holly trees for privacy are:
- American holly, which has a height range of 40 to 50 feet
- Dragon Lady holly, which has a height range of 10 to 20 feet
- Chinese holly, which has a height range of 10 to 25 feet
- Nellie Stevens holly, which has a height range of 20 to 30 feet
- Longstalk holly, which has a height range of 15 to 30 feet
Now that you have a quick list of the 5 best holly trees for privacy, you may want to know more important information about these trees.
For example, what is the yearly growth rate of these trees, and how can you influence their growth? Don't worry, we elaborate on that information and more in this post!
Keep reading to learn more about the basic characteristics and growth rates of the 5 holly trees in this post, how far apart you should pant holly trees for the best privacy screens, when you should prune holly trees, and the lifespan of hollies.
5 Best Holly Trees For Privacy
1. American Holly (Ilex opaca)
The American holly is native to the eastern and south-central United States. Its leaves have a leathery texture, have sharp tips, and remain green all year.
The American holly has a pyramidal shape, and when it cross pollinates with other trees, it produces red berries, which gives it even more beauty. In addition to red berries, this tree also produces green or cream-colored flowers.
The American holly has an annual growth rate of about 12 to 24 inches, meaning that it grows at a slow to medium pace.
As mentioned before, the American holly reaches 40 to 50 feet tall at peak maturity. This means that the privacy screen the American holly provides is perfect for yards of a decent size.
One thing that you can do to influence the growth of the American Holly is to plant it in full sun or partial shade.
In addition, American hollies grow best in well-drained clay soils that are acidic and moist. So, if you plant American hollies in this type of soil, you will be encouraging their growth.
You could also use fertilizer to influence the American holly's growth. A well-rotted manure fertilizer or a broadleaf evergreen fertilizer are great choices for the American holly and other holly trees.
A great evergreen fertilizer for the American holly and other hollies is Espoma Organic Holly-tone Fertilizer.
2. Dragon Lady Holly (Ilex x aquipernyi)
The Dragon Lady holly has prickly and glossy leaves that stay green year-round. The tree's prickly leaves make excellent privacy screens because they deter humans and animals.
Also, the Dragon Lady holly is narrow in shape, and that makes it a great privacy screen for narrow yards. Like the American holly, the Dragon Lady holly is pyramidal in shape and produces beautiful red berries.
The Dragon Lady holly has an annual growth rate of about 8 to 10 inches, meaning that it grows at a moderate pace.
As mentioned, Dragon Lady grows to about 10 to 20 feet at full maturity. This smaller size means that the privacy screen it provides is better for smaller yards.
As with the American holly, you can influence the growth of Dragon Lady by ensuring that it is given the proper amount of sun and the proper type of soil.
The Dragon Lady holly prefers full sun to partial shade, so if you provide this amount of sunlight, you will encourage the tree to grow. Also, Dragon Lady does well in most types of soil, except for soggy soil.
So, if you ensure that this tree is not planted in soggy soil, you can help it grow.
You can also use a well-rotted manure fertilizer or a broadleaf evergreen fertilizer to influence the growth of Dragon Lady.
3. Chinese Holly (Ilex cornuta)
The Chinese holly is native to China, but it is found throughout the Southeastern United States due to its great heat endurance. These trees are bushy and dense. They have spiny, glossy leaves that stay green all year.
Unlike the American holly and the Dragon Lady holly, the Chinese holly is circular in shape.
However, like these other trees, Chinese holly does produce red berries; some types of Chinese holly even produce yellow-colored berries. The flowers that bloom from this tree are yellow or green in color.
The Chinese holly has a moderate annual growth rate. Because their foliage is bushy and dense, they make very effective privacy screens.
However, due to its bushiness, the Chinese holly can be messy and overwhelming. To keep a neat privacy screen, it's important to prune this tree.
To influence the growth of the Chinese holly, ensure that it gets full sun to partial shade, plant it in moist, well-drained soil, and apply well-rotted manure or broadleaf evergreen fertilizer to it.
4. Nellie Stevens Holly (Ilex x Nellie R. Stevens)
The Nellie R. Stevens holly is a hybrid of the Chinese holly and the English holly.
This holly tree is named after Nellie Stevens, a schoolmistress who took some berries from this particular tree when she visited the United States Botanical Garden.
The Nellie Stevens holly has glossy leaves that have one to three prickly spikes on them. These leaves stay green all year. The tree is pyramidal in shape and produces white flowers and red berries.
The Nellie Stevens Holly is one of the fastest growing holly trees there is. It grows at a rate of 3 feet per year.
To influence the growth of these beautiful, fast-growing holly trees, plant them in full sun to partial shade and in moist, well-drained soil. You can also use well-rotted manure or broadleaf evergreen fertilizer to encourage growth.
5. Longstalk Holly (Ilex pedunculosa)
Like all of the other trees on this list, the Longstalk holly has glossy leaves that stay green all year. However, the leaves are not prickly, and during harsh winters, they can become damaged and take on a yellowish hue. The leaves are also fairly narrow.
The tree has a pyramidal shape, and it produces greenish-white flowers and red berries. The berries that the tree produces hang from long stalks, which is where this holly's name comes from.
The Longstalk Holly can reach 15 to 30 feet tall at full maturity. At times, its branches grow in random directions, but this can add to its ability to be a good privacy screen.
As with all of the other hollies on this list, if you want to influence the growth of the Longstalk holly, plant it in full sun to partial shade and in moist, well-drained soil. Well-rotted manure or broadleaf evergreen fertilizer will also influence its growth.
What is the Fastest Growing Holly?
The fastest growing holly tree is the Nellie Stevens holly. As mentioned, the Nellie Stevens Holly grows about 3 feet per year.
Compared to the American Holly and the Dragon Lady Holly, which both usually only grow a few inches each year, the Nellie Stevens holly grows very quickly.
How Far Apart Should You Plant Privacy Screen Hollies?
How far apart you should plant your privacy screen hollies depends on the width of the trees at full maturity. Let's say that you want to use Dragon Lady hollies for a privacy screen. At full maturity, the Dragon Lady holly reaches 10 to 12 feet in width.
If you want to create a privacy screen with pyramidal evergreen trees like Dragon Lady holly, staggered double row planting is recommended.
Because the Dragon Lady holly has a width of about 10 feet, you can plant the trees in the first row about 18 feet apart.
Space the trees in the second row a distance behind the front row that is a little less than the trees' peak width; so space the rows about 8 or 9 feet apart. Finally, stagger the Dragon Ladies in the second row between the ones in the first.
This should give you a solid, effective privacy screen!
When Should Holly Trees be Pruned?
The best time of year to prune evergreen hollies, which all of the hollies on this list are, is early summer. You should prune evergreen holly trees in the early summer so that cold temperatures don't damage the new growth that follows pruning.
When pruning holly trees, use bypass pruners.
How Long Do Holly Trees Live?
The lifespan of hollies depends on the holly species and how well the trees are taken care of. If you properly care for your holly trees, they can generally live 100 years or more.
Holly trees offer a lot of beauty and can make great privacy screens due to their dense leaves. Five of the best holly trees for privacy are the American holly, the Dragon Lady holly, the Chinese holly, the Nellie Stevens holly, and the Longstalk holly.
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