The Green Meatball of Foundation Shrubs
What is evergreen, slow growing, heat tolerant, drought and wet-soil tolerant, self-sufficient, self-pruning, grows in sun and partial shade, insect and disease resistant, takes shearing well, and “native”? Dwarf Yaupon Holly. It’s the perfect foundation plant, the perfect ornamental landscape shrub, and the perfect low hedge plant. At the time of this writing, it is not even overused, like so many serviceable shrubs tend to be.
Yaupon Holly in tree form is large and awkward in shape and form. Its pendulous forms look like frozen waterfalls in the landscape, great for industrial landscapes as contrasting forms on large, horizontal, blank walls. The Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ cultivar is the perfect shrub for ornamental highway landscapes. It stays dense and full without pruning and stays under six feet tall. The new growth is bright green and turns darker over time. The leaves are very similar to Common Boxwood. You can distinguish it from Boxwood because the stems are grey and stiff, the leaves have slight serration. Other than that, the two shrubs are quite similar from a distance. Dwarf Yaupon is a carefree shrub, well worth incorporating into many landscape designs.
Because of its low growth habit and ability to be sheared easily, Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ is often used in landscapes where it is pruned to stay below thirty inches tall, but the cultivar Ilex vomitoria ‘Schillings’ Dwarf’ will naturally mature at a lower height. Why not use it instead? It stays in a tight, evergreen, mound/sphere shape under three feet tall. This is the shrub to specify for public landscapes when you wish you could use an English Boxwood but know better. The stems are grey instead of Boxwood green, and the form is slightly stiffer, but this plant is a survivor and thrives in the worst conditions.
‘Schillings’ has purplish new growth, which is one of the few ways you can differentiate it from ‘Nana’. Plant suppliers can confuse the two cultivars, so check the delivery carefully before installing them in the ground.
Dwarf Yaupons perform splendidly as a low, sheared hedge. They are ideal for a large, patterned garden designs outlining floral color. Their fine-textured leaves make a strong contrast with tropical foliage. Their reliable mound form makes them perfect for linear masses of green on a highway interchange. They are just right as facer plants in front of large shrubs with naked legs. They are excellent parking lot buffer shrubs where clear sight lines are important. They can survive in brutal, full-sun situations without irrigation. You will find, as a landscape designer, there are many instances when nothing, but a green meatball, will do. Dwarf Yaupon Hollies fill that need admirably!