Japanese Hollies

Source(s): Robert R Westerfield, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Extension Horticulturist

While not the most flamboyant plant in the landscape, it’s hard to beat the toughness and versatility of Japanese hollies. Smaller and softer in appearance than Chinese hollies, they make an excellent substitute for overused Yaupon hollies and boxwoods. Well-suited in the formal landscape or used in mass for a more natural look, the dark green leaves of Japanese hollies provide a good background for more colorful plants.

Japanese hollies are excellent plants for the gardener who is looking for shrubs that are low maintenance, drought tolerant and relatively easy to grow. They produce relatively small, spineless leaves and many have small, black berries. They range from dwarf, slow-growing plants to relatively fast-growing, medium-sized shrubs. Some “crenata hollies” have a pyramidal form and can be used as specimen plants in containers.

When looking to incorporate Japanese hollies into your landscape, pay special attention to the particular cultivar. Size can vary greatly, and using the wrong cultivar may mean the continuous maintenance of pruning these plants down to size to fit the space they are planted in. Perhaps one of the best cultivars, and the most compact, is Ilex crenata ‘Compacta’. This particular Japanese holly cultivar rarely grows more than 4 to 6 feet high and forms a dense, dark green, well-shaped plant. Little shearing is required to maintain this shrubs’s compact form.

Ilex creneta ‘Helleri’, or Helleri holly is a dwarf, mounding, compact plant, as well, and makes an excellent landscape plant. It can be placed under most windows without the worry of getting to large and blocking the view.

Ilex crenata ‘Rotundifolia’ or roundleaf holly has larger, flatter leaves than many of the other “crenata hollies” and is sometimes referred to as boxleaf or “boxholly” by some gardeners. It is one of the larger growing crenata hollies, often reaching a height of eight feet if not pruned regularly.

Ilex crenata ‘Repandens’ is a low, spreading Japanese holly that with some pruning of upright limbs can be developed into a four to six foot diameter plant with a height of only two to four feet.

Ilex crenata ‘Convexa’ has the distinguishing characteristic of producing small, convex or cup-shaped leaves. Small, black berries are often produced in adundance as well. Two disadvantages of this variety include its susceptibility to yellowing of the foliage caused by iron deficiency and attack by spidermites. Approximate height in 10 years with proper care is five to six feet.

Japanese hollies also provide an excellent, dark backdrop for variegated plants to light-colored seasonal flowers. Larger, upright and pyramidal forms can be used to accent corners of homes or can be arranged in mass in larger spaces.

Resource(s): Landscape Plants for Georgia
Center Publication Number: 187

Bob Westerfield
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