Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


Flowers &
Indoor Plants

Fruits & Nuts



Special Topics



Cornell University

Ilex sp.

Holly berries  Holly bush  Holly shrubs
Click on thumbnails for larger image.
Holly leaves

What about it?

Different species of holly are large, broadleaf evergreen or deciduous shrubs or small evergreen trees with alternate leaves. The fruit of the holly, if present, is a red, berry-like drupe. The leaves of the holly are thick and leathery with short spines growing from the edge of the leaves. While dull green above, the leaves of the holly are yellow-green below.

What is it used for?

The good quality summer foliage of the holly makes it a beautiful ornamental. It can also be used as a barrier, border, specimen, and hedge.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Holly can grow in either sun or shade. It does best in moist, well-drained soil, preferably acidic.

American Holly should be spaced 15 feet apart, or 3 feet for a hedge. Japanese Holly can be spaced 6 feet apart, or 3 feet for a hedge.

What are its primary problems?

Holly can suffer from foliar burn and twig kill in severe winters, especially in exposed sites. An insect commonly found on the holly is the leaf miner. When moving holly, make sure it is balled and burlapped. One peculiarity of holly is that it is dioecious, which means that both male and female plants are required for fruiting to occur.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.