More holly facts

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Chinese holly is a bit hardier than the English, although not so hardy as the Meserve hybrids. Its advantage is being tougher in the face of other hardships, such as wet soil and hot, dry Southern summers. It has less blue in the foliage than English holly and its hybrids. Its leaves are more rectangular and tend to turn under at the margin, too. 

Hollies of all form

  • There are hollies of all form -- groundcover, mounded shrubs, narrow columns, spreading trees, and fast growing pyramids. Their sizes range from 12" miniatures to 50' trees.
  • There are many differences in leaf color, berry color and variegation among holly species and varieties. Some have the traditional evergreen, spine-tipped leaf. Others are deciduous. Many are regularly mistaken for 'Some kind of boxwood.'
  • Lower mounded forms of holly make fine hedges and foundation plants. If you shear them to keep them small, and also want berries be sure to make thinning cuts, too. That keeps blooming woood coming from the interior. Growing back from a thinning cut, safe inside the shearing outline for a few years, that wood can flower and fruit. (More on pruning holly.)


Right: Yes, it's a holly. Inkberry, Ilex glabra 

Hard to appreciate...

...the differences, from book- and catalogue pictures

When you prune

  • Holly can regenerate from bare wood. You can cut it back hard if it's overgrown. (More on pruning holly.)
  • Corollary to the previous note: A holly that defoliates in bad weather or after a rough transplant should be given a chance to leaf out anew.

Useful clippings

  • Holly wood is rot-resistant. If you cut out old canes to renew a holly, or cut a holly back hard, keep the sticks for staking (to prop up perennials); they'll last for years.


The leaves at the top of the page belong to the Chinese holly below (I. cornuta, probably the variety 'Bufordii') a 20' spreading tree.

We admired this tree but when we saw the feathery, pollen bearing stamens in the flowers we thought, "Shucks, it's a male. Sure would've liked to see a tree so big with bunches of berries at the tips of each branch!" As it is, the tree will shortly be abuzz, when its pollen develops more fully. Chinese holly male flowers are bee magnets, with a particularly strong, sickly sweet odor.