Ilex crenata           Family: Aquifoliaceae
(EYE-lecks  kree-NAH-tah)

Common name: Japanese holly; box-leaved holly
Zone:  6 – 8
Height: 5-10 ft (1.5-3 m)   Spread: 5-10 ft (1.5-3 m)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: moist; slightly acidic; well-draining
Water: moderate     

Description: Dense, multi-branched, evergreen shrub. Glossy, deep green leaves are ovate to elliptical shaped and spineless. Cymes of 3 to 5 (male plant) or 3 to 7 (female plant), small, four petaled, white flowers appear in mid-May through into early June. Small round black inconspicuous fruits, or drupes, to ¼ inch (0.6 cm) in diameter, mature in fall on pollinated female plants.


Special Notes: Native to forest and mountainous slopes of Japan, China, Korea and parts of eastern Russia. Slow growing, this shrub will tolerate poor soil conditions, shady locations and drought, once it is established. Dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. Female needs pollination in order to produce fruits. Good shrub for topiary as it will tolerate significant shearing and pruning. A favourite plant species in formal-type gardens.

Good pest and disease resistance although may suffer from spider mites in high heat and humid gardens. May need some protection from drying winter winds. Severe winters in Zone 5 regions can cause foliar burn and damage branches. Stressed plants can also suffer twig dieback caused by blight. Leaves will turn yellow in high pH, or alkaline soils.


In our Zone 7a garden: Love this plant! Evergreen interest in a largely perennial garden. Initially planted sandwiched between a large Damera peltate and a much-used path at the bottom of the pond, it did not seem to suffer from repeated shearing to keep its size down to about 3 ft (0.9 m) high and wide. It has been re-located to a more appropriate location in one of the border beds and is flourishing nicely.

What I most love about this plant is the number of bees it attracts in spite of its tiny flowers. 


Posted on August 6, 2020