Growing Gallberry / Inkberry Shrubs in the Northeast Florida,
Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Surrounding area Landscapes
Origins of Gallberry / Inkberry / Ilex glabra Shrubs:
– Gallberry is native to the coastal plains of North America that includes Florida. Like many members of the Holly family the plants are dioceous having female and male flowers on separate plants. Wild Gallberry plants are responsible for the local Northeast Florida Gallberry Honey that has an extremely light coloration and an excellent clean honey flavor.
Berrylike drupes that follow the creamy white flowers of late spring and early summer are an excellent source of food for local birds.
There are a few sources that list dried Gallberry leaves as having been used for tea.
Preferred Exposure for Gallberry / Inkberry shrubs :
– Gallberry / Inkberry can be planted into full sun in wet soils or consistently irrigated spaces or part sun / full shade situations here in the Northeast Florida, Jacksonville | St. Augustine area landscape.
Foliage of the Gallberry / Inkberry / Ilex glabra Shrub:
– Foliage has entire leaf margins ( outer edge) that may have a few obtuse teeth near the leaf apex ( tip), they are obovate to oblanceolate and can range in size from less than an inch to 2 inches and area a bright medium to deep green. Plants will be evergreen in our subtropical climate zone for Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas of Northeast Florida.
Adds texture to the garden and contrasts well with larger foliage plants.
Soil Preference and Salt tolerance of Gallberry /Inkberry Ilex glabra Shrubs :
– Gallberry Inkberry shrubs will prefer moist to wet soils and are quite drought tolerant when established into the landscape.
- not particular about soil components and grow equally as well in sandy soils as they do in clay and loam providing drainage is adequate.
– Dwarf Natal Plum/ Carissa shrubs have a low salt tolerance and should be avoided for coastal
Size Variance of Gallberry / Inkberry:
– Gallberry can reach sizes of 6-8 ft in height and can spread 8-10 ft wide although they can be easily maintained and respond well to heavy prunings.
Space plants at a minimum of 3 ft from the center of one plant to the center of another for naturalized hedge plantings ad about 4 ft from patio and foundation if allowing to grow up untamed as a small specimen plant.
Growth Habit of Gallberry / Inkberry Ilex glabra Shrubs:
– Gallberry shrubs have a upright clump forming growth habit and tend to thin out at the base of the plant. These shrubs are thicket forming and will send up suckers from their root system forming dense masses that can be utilized for naturalized plant borders in wetland areas and edge of the woods locations that remain to damp for many more commonly used hedge screen plantings.
Growth Rate of the Gallberry / Inkberry Shrubs:
– Moderate to Fast growing shrub quickly establishes itself into the landscape. Expect 6 inches to 1 ft of growth in a season when young and planted into moist soil locations.
Blooms / Fruits of the Gallberry / Inkberry Ilex Glabra:
– Female flowers are inconspicuous creamy white solitary blooms that are followed by berry like drupes.
- Male plants bear clusters of creamy white inconspicuous flowers born on a stalk and do not produce the drupes.
Water Requirements of Gallberry / Inkberry shrubs :
– Gallberry shrubs like water, they like wet soggy feet, they like areas of extended flooding where other plants often fail to thrive. Although they are moderately drought tolerant so they can be planted into drier areas of the landscape that experience flooding during our heavy rain seasons with no problems to note.
Butterfly or Bird Attracting:
– Attracts butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. Blooms provide and excellent nectar source for bees and are responsible for the excellent local Gallberry Honey that if you’ve never tried you really should!
Berry like drupes are a good source of food for local birds.
Best Uses For Gallberry / Inkberry Ilex glabra shrubs:
– Gallberry / Inkberry is a thicket forming shrub that is best used as a specimen plant, edge of woods hedge screen for wetland areas or in shady moist areas where you would like to attract wildlife for home viewing.
Care of S & J Nursery’s North Florida | Jacksonville | St. Augustine Gallberry / Inkberry
– Gallberry / Inkberry shrubs can be pruned once a year to shape when they begin to be sprawl out of bounds. Do not be afraid to trim, they respond well to harsh prunings and fill back in nicely!
– Gallberry shrubs can be planted in the North Florida | Jacksonville | St. Augustine area at any time during the year. Dig the hole as deep as the root ball and two to three times as wide. Plant the top of the root ball level or slightly higher than the surrounding soils. This shrub is well suited for planting in poorly drained soils.
– Check the plants water needs every day during the establishment period. For most 3 gallon size shrubs in the North Florida landscape in average soil, that is neither heavy clay that holds water or really sandy that will take 2-3 weeks of daily watering to ensure that your newly planted shrub will begin to put out new roots and grow into its new home happily. After the first few weeks begin tapering back your watering to every other day then every third day and so on until your newly planted items are flourishing without your assistance.
– Gallberry may need supplemental irrigation during times of excessive heat or drought when planted into well drained or sandy soil drier areas of the landscape.
– IMPORTANT: If planting shrubs in heavy clay soils that hold allot of water after a rain or irrigating, remember to check the soil for moisture by sticking your fingers into the soil near the root ball of the newly planted shrub down to 2-3 inches. If it remains wet from the previous watering wait for the top 2-3 inches to dry out before watering again.
– IMPORTANT: When planting shrubs into poor sandy soils be sure to amend the planting hole by mixing compost or cow manure etc. with the native soil that will go back in the hole around the new plants root ball when installing your shrub material, this will not only give your new shrubs good soil to grow its new roots into but help it hold water.
– When planting shrubs from containers be sure to loosen the roots as much as possible pulling loose roots away from the root ball before installing your new plants, if the roots are to tight to easily loosen with your hands use a knife to cut a few slits into the root ball being careful to go all
the way from the top to the bottom and making the cut at least an inch deep. This will ensure that your plant will immediately begin to form new roots into its new surrounding soil.
– Mulch newly planted shrubs whenever possible. Shrubs will benefit from a 3-4 inch layer of arborists wood chips, Pine bark or Pine Straw.
– Fertilize each spring with a shovelful of good garden compost or a good quality slow release poly coated plant food like Stay Green or Osmocote. Be sure when fertilizing to sprinkle the fertilizer around the mulch circle underneath the foliage of the shrubs.