Ilex- Holly

Evergreen and deciduous shrubs, usually with spiny foliage.


The common holly, which in this country also grows wild, is used to create windbreaks and for planting under trees, as well as for hedge making. The more unusual foliage forms provide valuable ornamental shrubs, even specimen shrubs. Strains with a profusion of berries are very popular around Christmas.


Holly will thrive only in acid, constantly moist soil rich in humus. The soil must be kept out of the sun, since otherwise the roots will dry out too rapidly. For that reason ground-cover should be provided. Give an annual feed of rotted cow dung.


The common holly is grown from seed, but garden varieties are increased from cuttings or grafted on common holly stock.

Ilex X altaclarensis: A hybrid resembling the common holly, but the leaves are larger and more spiny. Height to 10 m; ‘Camellifolia’ is the only spineless variety. ‘Belgica’, produces a profusion of orange-red berries. Ilex aquifolium, common holly: Evergreen; height to 15 m, but usually much lower; inconspicuous flowers in late spring and early summer. It is unisexual and in most hollies cross-pollination is essential to obtain berries. Only ‘Pyramidalis’ is self-pollinating.

There are innumerable garden strains of the common holly, varying in form or colour of the foliage as well as of the berries. ‘Argentomarginata’ has a silvery leaf margin; ‘Bacciflava’ has yellow berries and is attractive because of its unusual colouring; ‘Golden King’ is a particularly fine variegated holly, in cold climates is unfortunately not always winter-hardy; ‘J.C van ToP, profusely berried, is highly recommended; ‘Aureomarginata’ has golden-yellow leaf margins; it is a vigorous grower without berries; ‘Pyramidalis’, abundant fruiting, as already mentioned, needs no cross-pollination.

Ilex crenata, Chinese or Japanese holly: Evergreen, height to 7 m, leaves 1 cm wide, 3 cm long, oval to spear-shaped, usually crenate along the entire margin. ‘Convexa’ has striking, convex leaves and is winter-hardy. Ilex verticillata: Deciduous holly, height to 3 m, leaves 3 cm across, 7 cm long, oval to reverse egg-shaped, singly or doubly serrated. Dioecious, producing an abundance of berries if male and female specimens are placed side by side.

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