Fixing a floppy Will Fleming yaupon for Foliage Follow-Up

‘Will Fleming’ yaupon (Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’), a fastigiate cultivar of our native yaupon holly, is one of my go-to vertical accent plants. It’s a green punctuation mark, ideal for adding height to a flat bed or using in multiples as a narrow hedge to screen an ugly view. In sun or shade it’ll grow to 10 or 15 feet (I like to give mine flat-top haircuts at about 6 feet tall) but only 1 to 2 feet wide. Sometimes, however, the outer branches go a bit floppy, ruining the vertical shape.

Like this — not the look I was going for.

You might think this calls for the pruners. Stop! Put the pruners down and grab a pair of scissors and a spool of fishing line instead. Tie one end of a length of fishing line loosely around a branch, leaving room for the branch to grow. Loosely wrap the fishing line in a spiral around the body of the tree, thereby creating a neat column again. Tie it off, taking care not to tie or wrap any part of the line tightly. You don’t want to strangle your tree. A gentle touch is all that’s needed.

And voila! A columnar ‘Will Fleming’ is restored.

One more time — floppy!

And fixed!

‘Will Fleming’ yaupon is my Foliage Follow-Up featured plant this month. Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of April for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

37 Responses

  1. Must try that on my petite crape myrtle and a rose. Don’t like sacrificing any possible bloom. But need to walk by without peril of prickles. Thanks. My foliage color this month is blue at

  2. Helen says:

    Here’s mine
    No agaves again I see I will stop having to predict you are talking about them:) My brother in law used tape to bind a branch he had accidentally snapped on a tree, I doubt it worked but it did amuse me

  3. Beautiful yaupon. My GB Foliage Follow Up is about our sago palm’s curly new leaves, here:

  4. Diana says:

    Not much foliage to post about yet. I did take pictures of emerging foliage – in particular I love the way Aquiligia leaves unfurl. Good thing I took pictures yesterday because today we have (ugh) snow! I’m at:

  5. The flopper up here is Arborvita. Not too much happening in Wisconsin yet. Snow on the ground Monday and Tuesday but looks like warmer weather starting today. I posted my early foliage at

    PS — Mark bolted a branch together a few years ago after a snowstorm and it has held up beautifully.

  6. Nice job on the Yaupon…it looks perfect! My foliage follow up is all about the early foliage. Bulbs and Sedum are what we have showing now on Long Island. I love to watch the new growth popping up at this time of year but it has been delayed because the weather has been strange. It snowed last night-just a dusting but still!

  7. Thanks for sharing. Enjoying a chilly but glorious spring morning in the Upstate at

  8. Alison says:

    I tried duct tape once to fix a Japanese maple. I’ve never tried fishing line. Will you eventually be able to remove it?

    My FF post is here:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’ll keep an eye on it as time goes by, just to make sure it’s not cutting into the branches. A few snips, and it’ll be free. But I think it should be fine for years to come. Fabulous ferns in your post, by the way! —Pam

  9. Peter/Outlaw says:

    When I saw the third picture, I was thinking that you were going to recommend forgetting the garden and going fishing if your yaupon misbehaved. Your solution (Texas Viagra?) is much better. My foliage follow-up post is, once again, random and can be found here

    Thanks for hosting the party!

  10. Kris P says:

    That works! Thanks for hosting foliage follow-up, Pam! Here’s my contribution:

  11. Thank you for the great trick! We will be using this!

  12. Mary says:

    Great to know about dealing with floppy foliage! Love the variety of greens and yellows along that walkway.

    Thanks for hosting!


  13. I’ve seen those around, and wondered what they were. Nice plant. And, a good idea for a fix.

    Here’s my offering for today. Thanks for hosting.

  14. Indie says:

    It does look much better! A good solution!

  15. Hannah says:

    Great fix! I don’t have a plant in that usage category, interesting. I tend to tie floppy plants up to bamboo since I have so much, but fishing line is so neat and unobtrusive.

    I’m sharing various variegated or spring foliage-

  16. Mark and Gaz says:

    With Spring well on its way, there is plenty of fabulous new growth to feature this month!

    Heres our follow up –

  17. Nothing like a good columnar evergreen! My foliage post is about the new growth on the Acers.

  18. Tina says:

    I like the ‘Will Fleming’ and your tutorial is excellent. The fishing wire works for many things: plants, landscape structures…husbands. :) Here’s my contribution in honor of foliage:

  19. Shirley says:

    Will Flemings are a great plant for narrow spaces and knowing how to keep them in check is a big help. I’ll probably add a few to the side yard this year.

    I’m following up on the Bismarck Palms this week.

  20. I was kinda hoping for a zoomed-in view of the leaves. Glad to know of this useful narrow-space filler. Wishing you happy spring from Portland, Julie

  21. Pam we finally have spring growth so I can share my foliage…I love the idea of using the fishing line.

    I hope you enjoy our early spring foliage as the garden gets going finally even after yesterday’s snow.

  22. Amy says:

    Good to know about the yaupon fix. I’m into artful pruning, but that’s not always the answer. Here’s what’s going green in my part of Austin:

  23. Ally says:

    I didn’t realize the Will Fleming limbs would flop down like that. I would have pruned the rogue branches so I’m glad I saw this post. Does it flop more in the shade vs sun?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re in sun or shade regarding floppiness. It seems to be a factor of lush growth weighing down the branches at times. —Pam

  24. Diana Studer says:

    that second sentence is probably what’s happened to our spekboom. I prune the bits and replant as we have so much. I can have the neat column, and a new row.
    That’s in the wild, but there’s another link within as proof that it grows in my garden.

  25. Laura Bohls says:


    Thank you for this helpful and relevant information. I have three Will Flemings and need to add four more. I have not had any luck finding any around Austin, have you or any of your followers seen any Will Flemings in the local nurseries?


    • Pam/Digging says:

      Have you checked with Barton Springs Nursery, The Natural Gardener, and the Great Outdoors? Others I shop, and worth checking, are Shoal Creek Nursery, Vivero, and Red Barn. —Pam

  26. Anna K says:

    I will likely use your fishing line/Viagra trick for one of my shrubs which has that floppy affliction after the ice storm we had earlier this winter. I saw another great vertical evergreen you might like the other day – a celery pine! Very cool – wish I had room… As usual, my post highlights the ongoing battle of way too many plants in a far too small space.

  27. Synergy says:

    I just planted two Will Flemings about a month ago and about 2/3 of the leaves have turned brown and are falling off. I’m not sure if they’re getting too much or too little sun or too much or too little water. I thought they were supposed to be good in a lot of sun and low water so I planted them at the shadeless SW corner of my house. Any advice would be SO welcome!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      It’s just a guess without seeing what’s going on. But it sounds like they didn’t get enough water. Even drought-tolerant plants need a deep soaking at planting and at least once a week if it’s hot until they get established. —Pam

      • Synergy says:

        Well, I did do those things which is why I was later thinking it needed less water after all. Hopefully they’ll recover. I’ve kept watering once a week.

        Thanks for your thoughts!