Robin Red Holly Info: Tips For Growing Robin Red Hollies

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

When all the summer trees are seen so bright and green, the holly leaves a sober hue display, less bright then they. But when the bare and wintry woods we see, what then so cheerful as the holly tree?” Robert Southey.

With glossy evergreen foliage and bright red berries that persist through winter, holly has long been associated with Christmas. Holly plants of all types are often the first go-to plant to add winter interest in the landscape. Because of this, plant breeders are continually creating newer varieties of hollies for the winter garden. One such new variety of holly is the Robin Red holly (Ilex x Robin™ ‘Conal’). Continue reading this article for more Robin Red holly info.

What is Robin Red Holly?

Along with ‘Festive,’ ‘Oakleaf,’ ‘Little Red’ and ‘Patriot,’ ‘Robin Red’ is a member of the Red Holly Hybrid Series, which are hardy in zones 6-9. Like the common English holly, which we associate with Christmas, Robin Red holly has the classic dark green, glossy, evergreen foliage that these hollies are loved for. However, on this variety, the new foliage in spring emerges as a maroon to red color. The foliage then turns darker green as the season progresses.

Like all hollies, the flowers of Robin Red are small, short-lived and inconspicuous. In autumn, though, Robin Red holly bears bright red fruit. Robin Red holly is a female variety and will require a nearby male plant to produce a showy display of berries. Suggested male varieties are ‘Festive’ or ‘Little Red.’

Robin Red holly has a pyramidal habit and grows 15-20 feet (5-6 m.) tall and 8-12 feet (2.4-3.7 m.) wide. The Red Holly hybrids are known for their fast growth rate. In the landscape, Robin Red hollies are used for privacy screening, windbreaks, firescaping, wildlife gardening, and as a specimen plant.

While birds are drawn to hollies, Robin Red is noted to be somewhat resistant to deer. The berries, however, can be harmful to humans, so it is recommended to keep small children away from them.

How to Grow Robin Red Holly Plants

Growing Robin Red hollies is no different from other types really. Robin Red holly can grow in full sun to part shade, but like most hollies prefers part shade. They are tolerant of many soil types, from clay to sandy.

Although young Robin Red plants will require frequent watering in the heat of summer, older established plants will be semi-drought tolerant.

Robin Red holly is a broadleaf evergreen. Their dark green foliage and bright red berries persist through winter, so you do not want to do any pruning or shaping in late fall or winter. Instead, Robin Red hollies can be sheared to shape in early spring before the new maroon foliage emerges.

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Read more about Holly Bushes

American Arborvitae

‘Emerald’, which matures to about 15’ tall and 4’ wide ‘Nigra’, 15’ x 5’ and ‘Pyramidal’, 20’ x 8’ are three of our most popular varieties. Great for our Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, these varieties display dense, dark green foliage that is soft textured. They maintain good winter color.


As a young tree, cryptomeria has a very dense, full growth that begins to open up into a more irregular, graceful form with age. It matures to a height of 50’ – 60’ and a spread of 20’ – 40’. An elegant tree with attractive red bark, cryptomeria can be used as a specimen or to create privacy. Cryptomeria should be planted in full sun. Growing 30’ – 40’ tall, ‘Yoshino’ is the most popular type.

Eastern Red Cedar

Native to the mid-Atlantic region, Eastern red cedar is a narrow, evergreen tree that can mature to 25’ to 35’ tall. The dense and pyramidal form becomes slightly pendulous with age. Male plants have gold cones and female plants have blue cones that birds love. The two paired together are quite attractive in the landscape.

Foster’s Holly

Some homeowners are smitten with Foster hollies, which feature small, fine-textured leaves and narrow, upright growth. Their dense growth, dark green foliage and bright red berries make them an excellent choice for privacy screens. They mature to a height of 20’ – 30’, but with routine pruning they can be easily kept to a height of 12’ – 15’.

Giant (Western) Arborvitae

Native to the Pacific Northwest, this is often sold as ‘Green Giant’. Because of its fast rate of growth and soft-textured foliage, the variety ‘Green Giant’ is often promoted as an alternative to Leyland cypress. ‘Green Giant’ will grow 30’ – 40’ tall with a spread of 10’ – 12’. This tree has better resistance to deer than other arborvitaes or Leyland cypress.

Leyland Cypress

A hybrid tree that originated in Wales in 1888, Leyland cypress has exploded in popularity over the past 30 years. This tree grows very rapidly, and is capable of growing 3’ a year or more until reaching maturity at 25’ – 35’ tall and 10’ wide. It requires full sunlight and appreciates a bit of protection from harsh winter winds. Moist, well-drained soil conditions are ideal, although this tree will adapt to heavy clay

Nellie R. Stevens

A very popular, vigorous, hybrid holly that grows into a broad pyramidal form. It can mature to 25’ tall, but like all hollies it responds well to pruning and can be cut back in early spring if necessary. The berries are prolific with an orange-red color. Nellie Stevens withstands harsh, exposed environments better than other hollies.

Skip Laurel

This is a widely planted, versatile shrub that is suitable for many different situations. It will grow in full sun or full shade, preferring something in between. The white flowers appear in late April or May, and are attractive, but considered secondary to the glossy, dark-green leaves. Skip laurel will grow 8’ or more tall and 4’ – 6’ wide, but can easily be shaped by occasional pruning.

Southern Magnolia

Prized for its glossy green leaves and fragrant white flowers, this is a great specimen tree that can also be used for screening. ‘Little Gem’ is a compact variety that grows to 20’ or more tall and about 8’ wide. Planting them in a location protected from harsh winter winds is best.

Rich and glossy forest-green foliage, along with vibrant red berries on some varieties, make Holly Shrubs the perfect option for a stylish ornamental during the winter. Whether you want the more common Nellie Stevens or American Holly, these shrubs are the perfect options for quality greenery.

Types of Holly Shrubs and More

A mix between a Chinese and English Holly, Nellie is admired for its glossy green foliage year-round and the radiant red berries that grow in the fall.

This holly can adapt to almost any kind of soil and remains fully branched to the ground as it matures. The only difference between the American and the Nellie is that the American Holly doesn’t grow as fast as the Nellie Stevens annually.

Unlike many in its family, this tree is the hardiest and toughest. Commonly used as an ornamental, this tree will put on a show year-round.

Winter Red Winterberry

Hardy down to -30 degrees, this tree is perfect for Growing Zones 3 through 9! This female deciduous tree will surely give you all of the beauty that other hollies give before losing its leaves during the winter.

This Male Winterberry pollinates with the Winter Red Winterberry and can pollinate up to six Winter Red Winterberries by itself! Though Apollo does not produce berries, this tree still grows creamy white flowers during the late spring.

This maintenance-free tree gives you a sleek modern look without the work. The Sky Pencil Holly can be used as an ornamental or can accent your home in rows for a narrow hedge. The choice is up to you! Forget about pruning and let the Sky Pencil do its thing. It will not disappoint.

These adorable shrubs are different from most in its family. Instead of the red berries that most hollies produce, the Soft Touch will grow black berries during the late fall or early winter. Maturing to a height of 2 to 3 feet tall, this tree is perfect if you love the gleaming green leaves of Hollies but you do not want the height that comes with it.

Unlike other hollies, this tree can grow well indoors and thrives wonderfully in shade, too. Clusters of red berries will last until winter, making it the perfect ornamental for Christmas every year.

How to Plant Holly Shrubs

First, it's important that you pick a spot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight per day and has well-drained soil. Hollies can thrive in partial shade as well. Just make sure that the shrub gets at least 3 to 6 hours of early morning or afternoon sun. Afterwards, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and place your shrub - it's that simple.

When to Prune Holly Shrubs

Inspect your tree for any intersecting, damaged, diseased, or dead branches. Once you find the branches you’re going to prune, gradually cut them off starting from the bottom of the tree and work your way up. The best time to prune your tree is during the winter, when the tree is dormant.

Top 10 plants for birds

We recommend 10 of the best plants for attracting birds into your garden.

Published: Friday, 20 September, 2019 at 7:58 am

Even a small garden can provide a selection of natural food sources for birds all year round.

From autumn onwards, this is particularly important, as temperatures start to drop and food becomes more scarce. But which plants are the best?

Here are 10 that will provide a succession of valuable foods for a wide range of bird species.


Although holly berries are often ripe by autumn, birds such as song thrushes, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings don’t usually feed on them until late winter. Only female plants produce berries, but there must be a male nearby to ensure pollination.

In autumn, ivy flowers attract insects, which in turn provide food for robins and wrens. When the black berries appear in the middle of winter, they’re devoured by everything from thrushes, waxwings, starlings and jays, to finches and blackbirds. The leaves provide food for caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly, as well as nesting and roosting shelter for birds.


The shiny clusters of haws can stay on hawthorn trees until February or March. They’re the favourite berry of blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares and are enjoyed by many other species too, including chaffinches, starlings and greenfinches. The leaves are the foodplant for caterpillars of many species of moth, providing food for baby birds in spring.


As it’s a climber, honeysuckle is ideal when space is tight. In autumn it provides berries and shelter for birds such as thrushes, warblers and bullfinches. In summer, its scented flowers attract insects and so provide food for a different range of birds.


Depending on which species of this tree you plant, it will bear berries from late July (Sorbus aucuparia) to November (Sorbus torminalis). You could also grow crab apples, which will attract birds such as blackbirds and starlings.


This tall architectural plant is a stalwart of naturalistic plantings. Teasels form striking seedheads in early autumn, which can last until December, depending on the weather. Goldfinches, sparrows and buntings all feast on the compact seedheads.


The branches of this shrub are laden with small red berries from autumn onwards. This plant is often the first to be stripped of its bounty, as the nutritious berries are extremely popular with garden birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and waxwings.


Leave the faded flowers on this sun-loving annual to form large seedheads. The plentiful seeds, tightly packed at the centre, provide oil-rich nourishment throughout autumn for finches, long-tailed tits, nuthatches and other seed-eating birds.

Guelder rose

This native deciduous shrub, Viburnum opulus, bears heavy clusters of glossy berries from November through to March. These are loved by mistle thrushes and bullfinches, in particular. It makes an excellent hedging plant too.

Shrub rose

Some of the largest rose hips are produced by the hedging rose, Rosa rugosa, and these are taken by blackbirds, fieldfares and mistle thrushes. The smaller hips of the dog rose, Rosa canina, are eaten by a wider range of birds and stay juicy until late winter.

Kate Bradbury says

The more berrying plants you grow, the better. These provide a perennial source of nutritious, antioxidant-rich food for birds in autumn, which is a longer lasting and more reliable way to help birds than by filling feeders.

This Shrub Gets Big--Fast!

The weeping form of a young Chinese fringe suggests it will be a small plant at maturity, but looks can be deceiving.

"I never knew they got so large." People say that a lot about pink Chinese fringe, especially after those beautiful little shrubs they bought at the nursery have had a few years to grow. Also known as fringe flower, this popular evergreen has pink flowers and purple leaves and is shooting up in home landscapes all across the South.

Pink Chinese fringe is sneaky. While the flower and leaf colors remain true, the compact, weeping habit of the small plant gradually disappears as it grows. What starts out as a petite, mannerly shrub turns into anything but that.

It Grows Fast
The pink Chinese fringe ( Loropetalum chinense) in the photo is only 7 years old, but it has already reached the eaves of this home. If a 1-gallon containerized plant can become a multistemmed specimen shrub in several years, you better think hard about where you place it. Remember that its adult size is comparable to that of a Japanese maple or Burford holly. In fact, Chinese fringe can be limbed up easily into a lovely tree form. Chinese fringe prefers a bit of shade along with rich soil, and it doesn't like dry conditions. But it will grow in full sun and slightly wet soil. Use it en masse as a backdrop for azaleas or as a substitute for crepe myrtles in areas with filtered sun.

Selections with pink blooms include 'Blush,' 'Burgundy,' 'Razzleberri,' 'Sizzling Pink,' 'Suzanne,' and 'Zhuzhou' (sometimes called 'Zhuzhou Fuchsia'). While their heights might vary, all become big shrubs. So when you see this cute, little plant at the nursery, don't let it fool you into thinking it'll stay that small forever.


The following shrubs don't look like they'll grow very large when you purchase them in containers. But watch out as they mature, because they'll become the size of small trees.

  • Burford holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii')--It can become 18 to 20 feet tall and wide. Even 'Dwarf Burford' can reach 8 to10 feet tall.
  • wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)--This native shrub can quickly become a 15- to 20-foot-tall tree in the right location. Dwarf selections will stay around 3 feet tall but are hard to find.
  • Fortune's osmanthus (Osmanthus x fortunei)--A slow grower, this shrub has sticky leaves like a holly and is not dense when young. At maturity, it can be 15 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide.
  • 'Fruitlandii' thorny elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens 'Fruitlandii')--This common hedge plant grows almost as fast as kudzu and can send out runners 10 feet long in a growing season. It can easily grow to 15 feet tall and wide in a few years.
  • 'Nellie R. Stevens' holly (I. 'Nellie R. Stevens')--When young, this cone-shaped holly looks just right at the corner of your home. But, attaining a height of 20 feet and a width of 10 feet, this holly becomes oversize for most places it is planted.
  • Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum)--This plant can grow to a height of 12 feet in a few years. A good smaller selection is 'Recurvifolium.

This article is from the Favorites 2005 issue of Southern Living.

Watch the video: A Focus On Holly: All You Need To Know

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