Holly – Male vs Female Flowers

Q: I have three ‘Sparkleberry’ hollies that I planted about a year ago. They were leafless when I bought them.

The foliage this past season was wimpish at best and no berries formed. I understand pollination is required to form fruit. How can I determine what sex they are?

A: The sparse foliage may have been caused by establishment stress last year. Fertilize with Espoma Holly-tone and care for them faithfully this spring and summer. They should have plenty of leaves by May.

You’ll have to wait until the flowers form to determine if the plants are male or female. My guess is that they are all female and that you need an ‘Apollo’ holly to pollinate them.

Figuring out the sex of a holly flower is not hard. Female flowers will have a green (or red) swollen cone in the center of each flower. Male flowers lack the cone but they have distinct short stamens with yellow pollen-bearing pads on the ends.

The pictures below illustrate.

female flower

female flower

male flower

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