Roses in a formal garden.

How to Design a Yard With Yaupon Holly Shrubs

by Jenny Green

When Native Americans brewed Yaupon holly leaves for a ceremonial drink, little did they know their use of the shrub would be recorded in its Latin name, Ilex vomitoria. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, Yaupon holly shrubs are sturdy, reliable plants to include in a low-maintenance, child-friendly yard design. With 1 1/2-inch-long, glossy, leathery leaves and a thicket-forming habit, only female plants bear berries, so grow both sexes for an attractive winter display.

Location, Location, Location

Large evergreen shrubs like Yaupon hollies are permanent and imposing features in garden designs. Grow them in moist or wet soil where they can be seen from the house during winter to enjoy their displays of bright red berries. Alternatively, if the shrubs are already in place, surround them with plants that enjoy the shady growing conditions and provide interest in other seasons. Yaupon shrubs provide a green backdrop in garden borders and are also a useful privacy screen when left to sucker and form a thicket. When selecting a site to plant Yaupon hollies, allow enough room for the shrubs to grow to their final 8- to 12-feet-wide dimensions.

Gardening in Style

An effective yard design reflects a style that appeals to the designer, meets her and her family's needs and provides a smooth visual transition from the garden to the house. Yaupon holly shrubs suit wildlife gardens similar to their native southeastern United States habitats in forest edges, coastal plains and sandy woods, and they fit in well in other informal garden styles, such as cottage or tropical gardens. Select companion plants that suit the overall scheme. Yaupon hollies are tough enough to grow next to children's play areas and are useful fillers for corners of yards that are neglected due to busy lifestyles. The holly berries and leaves are mildly toxic (hence its scientific name), but the prickly leaves usually discourage picking.

Looks Good on Paper

Draw a plan of your yard to scale on graph paper and mark the position of Yaupon holly shrubs before making any practical alterations. Include permanent features such as sheds and ponds, and add lawns, paths and garden borders. Yaupon hollies grow up to 20 feet tall and cast considerable shade, so position areas for relaxing, children's play areas, vegetable beds and other areas affected by shade accordingly. Draw circles to represent the final dimensions of all the plants to check that they will fit comfortably, although some overlap is acceptable as plants grow together.

Attractive By Design

Plant short shrubs in front of Yaupon hollies to provide different heights and forms in your yard design, and add shade-loving perennials for extra seasonal color. For example, Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis umbellata) thrives in wet conditions in light shade and bears white or light pink, fragrant spring flowers followed by blue-black berries. Growing 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, this evergreen shrub is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10. Windflower "Honorine Jobert" (Anemone x hybrida "Honorine Jobert") is a perennial that complements Yaupon holly shrubs, growing vigorously in moist, partial shade, bearing 2- to 3-inch-wide white daisy flowers on 3- to 4-foot stems in late summer. "Honorine Jobert" grows well in USDA zones 4 through 8.

About the Author

A graduate of Leeds University, Jenny Green completed Master of Arts in English literature in 1998 and has been writing about travel, gardening, science and pets since 2007. Green's work appears in Diva, Whole Life Times, Listverse, Earthtimes, Lamplight, Stupefying Stories and other websites and magazines.

Photo Credits

  • spiral bush in rose garden image by Stephen Orsillo from