In Europe, evergreen plants were used for decorating at Christmas because they represented life in the midst of a cold, dead winter season. And hollies are among these plants because of their deep green foliage and bright red fruits.

Even though the holidays are past, January is one of the best times of year to plant shrubs and trees, so Louisiana gardeners can plant hollies now to enjoy throughout the year and have them for decorating next Christmas.

Hollies are wonderful for use in our landscapes, and many different kinds of hollies are available, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. And many are at our local nurseries now.

The native yaupon holly is a small tree. It has an irregular, informal shape that gives it a little personality and character, Gill says, adding that the female shrubs have wonderful berries.

Most holly plants are either female or male, and only the females have berries. So it’s always a good idea to buy a holly that has berries on it to make sure you’re getting a female, particularly when you’re looking at something like a yaupon, he advises.

Dwarf Burford hollies, however, are all females, so they’ll all produce large, attractive berries. Gills says the dwarf Burford will grow to be about 5- to 8-feet tall but can be pruned into a lower-growing shrub. It produces beautiful red berries and bright green leaves with the single spine on the end.

The standard Burford, on the other hand, gets to be a small tree about 15 feet tall.

On a much larger scale, you can find Savannah holly and Foster’s holly.

Both are pyramidal hybrids of the American holly and native dahoon holly.

The Savannah holly produces large numbers of brilliant red berries that are decorative and showy throughout the winter. It gets to be about 25 feet tall. You can use it as a specimen plan, or plant several in a row close together to create a green privacy hedge.

The same thing goes for the somewhat shorter Foster’s holly.

It has darker leaves, but is a really wonderful plant for a screen or as a specimen.

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.