Japanese Holly Care – Tips On Growing Japanese Holly Shrubs

Japanese Holly Care – Tips On Growing Japanese Holly Shrubs

By: Teo Spengler

By Teo Spengler

If you are looking to plant an easy-care hedge in a mild region, Japanese holly can work well. It’s easy to learn how to care for Japanese holly if you plant it in the right hardiness zone in an appropriate garden location. Read on to find out everything you need to know about growing Japanese holly shrubs.

Japanese Holly Plants

Japanese holly plants (Ilex crenata) grow into dense, rounded bushes between 3 and 10 feet tall and wide, with lustrous leaves and a compact habit. Some grow slow and some relatively fast, so pick your cultivar carefully. The shrubs offer small greenish-white flowers in springtime but they are neither fragrant nor showy. The blossoms turn into black berries over summer.

These holly shrubs resemble boxwood plants and, like boxwood, make excellent hedges. You can also use small-leafed holly species like Japanese holly as foundation shrubs. Cultivars offer different colors and shapes, so choose something that pleases you and suits your garden.

Japanese Holly Care

You’ll do best growing Japanese holly in light, well-drained soil with plenty of organic material. The shrubs prefer slightly acidic soil and will develop iron deficiency if the soil pH is too high. You can plant the shrubs in almost any garden location since they tolerate full sun or partial shade.

Japanese holly care includes regular irrigation to keep the soil moist. It helps to spread a few inches of organic mulch over the planting area to hold moisture in the soil. Japanese holly plants do best in zones 6-7 or 8, depending on the cultivar. In the north, cold weather can damage the foliage of the species plant, so you’ll want to select a cultivar that is slightly hardier.

When you are figuring out how to care for Japanese holly, pruning is important. You can trim off branch tips to remove dead wood and make the shape more aesthetically appealing. But Japanese holly pruning can also be severe. Like boxwood, Japanese holly plants tolerate shearing, which makes the shrub a good choice for an evergreen hedge. If you want a shorter holly without pruning, try one of the dwarf cultivars like ‘Hetzii’ that tops out at 36 inches tall.

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Hoogendorn Japanese Holly

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly foliage

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly foliage

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly

Other Names: Box-leaved Holly

A low growing, densely branched evergreen shrub with flattened dark green foliage that resembles boxwood a lovely choice for use in shrub borders, as a low hedge or massed in the landscape good cold hardiness

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly has attractive dark green foliage. The small glossy oval leaves are highly ornamental and remain dark green throughout the winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly is a dense multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It is a good choice for attracting birds and bees to your yard. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens

Hoogendorn Japanese Holly will grow to be about 3 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 4 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 50 years or more.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in moist to wet soil, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is quite intolerant of urban pollution, therefore inner city or urban streetside plantings are best avoided, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.


Screen or Medium Hedge

"Chesapeake" Japanese holly (Ilex crenata "Chesapeake") makes an easy medium-height hedge or screen. This cultivar grows to 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide in a slight pyramid shape. It grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. "Chesapeake" Japanese holly is also a source of food for birds, producing shiny black berries in fall. It's a low-key shrub that you can shear and form into a formal hedge, or leave to grow wild. Because it grows densely, it's an effective wind screen placed around a seating area and also screens out air conditioning units and pool pump equipment that may mar your natural landscape.


Japanese holly fern tolerates low humidity, which makes it a great houseplant. Plant it in a 12- to 18-inch container filled with a good quality potting mix. Site it in a room with medium light direct sunlight can scorch this plant's foliage. When Japanese holly fern is grown as a houseplant, water it regularly to maintain moist but not soggy soil. Feed your fern every month, spring through fall, with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Expect it to grow about 2 feet tall and wide indoors. Divide the plant in spring when it outgrows its container, which should take a few years.

Outside, plant Japanese holly fern in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. This plant grows best in all-day shade or a combination of morning sun and afternoon shade. Avoid planting spots where the soil stays wet for extended periods, which encourages root rot and is especially detrimental during winter. Water plants regularly during dry periods.

Japanese holly fern is hardy in mild winter climates. In areas where the foliage turns brown in winter, cut it back to ground level in early spring before new growth begins. In Zones 6 and 7, cover Japanese holly fern with a layer of straw mulch in winter to protect it from extreme temperatures.


Japanese Holly Care

Japanese holly plants will grow well in areas with good drainage, have a lot of organic matter and light soil. In addition, the pH of the soil should not be too high so as not to experience iron deficiency. Also, Japanese holly does not like soil with high acidity. This plant can tolerate full sunlight, so it can be planted on open land or partially shaded land.

The humidity must always be maintained, it is necessary to run the water regularly. In addition, you can make mulch under the plants to maintain moisture. The best area for planting Japanese holly is zone 6-7 or 8, depending on the cultivar. In the winter, usually the leaves of this plant can be damaged, then choose a variant whose leaves are not hard.

One way to treat Japanese holly is pruning. do regular pruning to stimulate good growth. You can cut the ends of branches to be more rounded or square so that they look attractive aesthetically. For pruning, you can use pruning shears like pruning on boxwood plants.

But if you like the shorter Japanese holly plants, you can choose the type of dwarf “Hetzii”, you do not need to trim this plant because of short growth, just need to trim the tips of the leaves. Usually, its growth is only about 36 inches above the ground.


How Can I Tell If My Japanese Holly Is Male or Female?

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Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is a versatile landscaping plant because of its many cultivars, ranging in size from ground covers to 15-feet-tall shrubs. Sometimes called boxwood holly, Japanese holly's smooth-edged, oval leaves resemble those of boxwood (Buxus spp., hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 8), and like boxwood, Japanese holly can be sheared into formal shapes. Hardy in USDA zones 6 through 10, bushes are either male or female, but impossible to tell apart unless they are flowering or fruiting. Females bear black, pea-sized berries if pollinated by male flowers.

Wait until spring when holly plants produce clusters of small, four-petaled white to greenish-white flowers in the leaf axils where the leaves join the stem of the bush. Prune off a piece of a branch with open flowers.

Take the cut branch into bright sunlight and place it on a flat surface so that the flowers are lit up by the sunlight. Look at the flowers under a magnifying glass or a hand lens.

Identify the structures at the base of the petals toward the middle of the flowers. Look for the four stamens, or male reproductive organs, that a male flower bears at the petal bases toward the middle of the flower, consisting of a slender stalk topped by an anther that bears dust-like yellow pollen. If the anthers have pollen on them and there is no central pistil present, the plant is male.

Look at the center of the flower to see if a pistil is present it will look like a small green holly-berry-to-be with a stigma rising from the round pistil base called the ovary. Identify the plant as a female if the pistil is present, since female flowers can have nonfunctional reduced stamens that don't produce pollen.


The Plant Guide

This dense, evergreen holly reaches 6 to 10 feet tall and at least as wide. The species is rarely used in landscapes, but there are many cultivars available with more interesting shape and color. This plant grows slowly, but can be invasive. Its dark green leaves are lustrous and the black fruit is hidden beneath them, so it is not obvious as in other hollies. Use Japanese holly in foundation plantings, hedges, beds and borders, or formal gardens.

CareProvide full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil in a sheltered location. Prefers slightly acidic soil.

PropagationFrom cuttings.

ProblemsFoliar burn, spider mites, chlorosis, Thielaviopsis blight.

  • Genus : Ilex
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7
  • Plant Height : 6 to 10 feet
  • Plant Width : 6 to 10 feet
  • Growth Rate : Fast, Slow
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Maintenance : Moderate
  • Characteristics : Showy Foliage
  • Plant Type : Shrubs
  • Bloom Time : Spring
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Spring Interest
  • Flower Color : White


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