Yaupon holly progression

When I purchased the tree I knew nothing about the variety, Ilex vomitoria, but was curious to see how it might develop. The trunk was nice, save for large scars in the back, and the leaves were small.

Biggest lesson learned: don’t keep cutting back to nothing. Thinning unnecessary branches and leaving the remaining branches long for a few years helped slow down the tree’s explosive growth.

Here are highlights from the first 10 years of development.

As purchased from Boon, 2004

The apex comes off

After removing the apex

2007 - after letting the tree grow freely for three years

Later that afternoon after cutback by Michael Hagedorn

2009 - two years later and still cutting back to small twigs; it’s time for a new approach

Five months later, June 2009

March, 2010 - this time I left the branches longer at Boon’s suggestion so they could thicken a bit

December, 2010. This approach turned out to be the key - letting the tree grow out, then cutting back to overly long branches.

After cutback later that day the silhouette begins to emerge

August, 2011

June, 2012

After cutback, July, 2012 - the first time the current silhouette is visible

May 2013

From the side after cutback

As exhibited, January, 2014 - ten years in the making

The process continues - September 2014

After cutback, September 2014


Amazing series of photos - I really like this tree and the way you documented its development. I had a question about the difference between your two approaches. Was the initial approach one in which you continually cut back to one or two leaves and the later approach being cutting back once a year or so? Was the idea to keep the outter margins of the future silhouette intact but otherwise not prune back?

Yeah, the initial approach was to let the tree grow out and once or twice a year to cut back to the part I wanted to keep, typically a few leaves worth. The problem with this approach was that such severe cutback caused the tree to explode with growth all over which kept me in the same loop for a few years.

The alternative was letting the branches grow out as before and then thinning to the branches I wanted to keep (as in the March 2010 pic above). I left these long but reduced the tips to encourage some back buds. Leaving the branches long curbed some of the explosive growth and produced a few back buds which became secondary branching. I didn’t worry about the silhouette until the main branches were somewhat in place.

Were I to start over or work on another holly, I think the process could take much less time with this approach.

Love to see these photo progressions, Great Work Jonas!

Here’s the latest. I cut back more than normal as some of the branches were getting thick.

Before cutback - August 2015

After cutback - August 2015


A post was split to a new topic: Ilex question - cutback and air layer

Man where did you find a yaupon w such a magnificent trunk??! I live in Houston and these trees are native - they grow arrow straight and with absolutely no taper; I’ve tried nursery stock and hunting for yamadori … very hard to find good trunk; at this point I’ve resigned to good nursery stock for small Shohin and will ultimately try to harvest a yamadori w favorable characteristics at the base and build the trunk line up from there - am I missing something?

I picked up the tree in California, but it’s from Texas. From what I’ve heard, the male trees can develop pretty large trunks - I’ve seen much larger ones!

We are using Yaupons more here in So. Cal. A few of us find good stock and then plant them in the ground or 7-10 gallon low profile containers for several years and there will be a big difference in trunk size, especially with male plants. If you have time and space, leave them be in the ground or big containers for 5 years or so. Let them run without goofing up the trunk and main branches.

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A post was split to a new topic: Collected Yaupon holly