ILEX – holly

Known world-wide for glossy, prickly leaves and the gleaming berries of common holly, this group of trees and shrubs can be tender or hardy, deciduous or evergreen, with a range of leaf variegation and berry colour.

Suitable site and soil. Most grow well in sun or shade (full sun for variegated hollies). Well-drained garden soil is best.

Cultivation and care. Plant in autumn or spring. Water well until established, protect young plants from winter winds with hessian or netscreens. Prune holly hedges in spring, specimen trees to shape in summer, and cut out completely shoots that revert to green on variegated forms.

Propagation. In summer take heeled cuttings and overwinter in a cold frame. Grow on in spring in nursery beds for up to two years before planting out permanently.

Recommended varieties. For yellow berries, Ilex aquifolium ‘Pyramidalis Fructuluteo’; orange berries, ‘Amber’. For silver-edged green leaves and red berries use ‘Handsworth New Silver’. ‘Madame Briot’ has gold-edged green leaves and scarlet berries. Grow it with male holly ‘Silver Queen’ with silver-edged spiny leaves. Prickliest holly for a hedge is ‘Ferox’. Use variegated hollies as highlights for winter colour; dark green holly makes a good background for other shrubs.

Pests and diseases. Unsightly marks on leaves can be caused by holly leaf miner. Caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly feed on flowers and young foliage in spring. Leaf spot marks leaves.


Almost all hollies are ’J.C. Van Tol’ and unisexual, with the result ’Pyramidalis’ are that the berries are self-fertile. Attractive red, borne only on female yellow or black berries plants. Therefore, for are produced after berry production in spring fertilization of tiny winter, male and female white flowers on trees are necessary, well-established female although Ilex aquifolium plants.

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