Ilex (Holly)


Common name: Holly

Family: Aquifoliaceae

Prickly leaves and Christmas decorations — these are the two things that immediately come to mind when holly is mentioned. This large genus has much to offer, with hollies having all shades of green and variegated leaves. Many hollies have red berries, whilst others offer yellow or black. There are a few deciduous forms, but most are evergreen, and there are even forms with spineless leaves.


Popular species and varieties

ilex aquifolium 'Silver Queen'There are forms of Ilex available for all sizes of garden. The most commonly grown is Ilex aquifolium (AGM), and its numerous varieties and cultivars which can be very different in growth habit, shape and colour of leaves and berries. They are grown, it has to be said, for their foliage and berries: the flowers are insignificant The berries, which last throughout winter, are carried only on female plants, so it is important that a male is nearby in order to cross-pollinate. Take time to look up a variety before buying, as names can be misleading. ‘ Golden Queen’, for instance, is a male form. It is an eye-catching variety; the broad dark green leaves have a wide yellow margin.

Also with gold margins, on almost spineless leaves, is ‘Golden van Tol’ (female). ‘Silver Queen’ (male) has cream-edged leaves. ‘J. C. van Tol’ (AGM) (female) has almost spineless leaves and is noted for its bright red berries. Another good variety is the golden hedgehog holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferrox Argentea’) (AGM), male. This is a medium-sized shrub with creamy white spines to its leaves.



Soil type Any good well-drained soil.

Planting Sun or light shade, with a sunny spot for those with variegated foliage. Planting can be done in the autumn or spring.

Pruning No regular pruning is required. Any specimen shrubs can be trimmed to shape in early summer. When used as hedging, trim annually in early spring. Variegated hollies can, on occasions, produce green shoots; when seen cut these back immediately.

Propagation Take 7cm (3in) long cuttings with a heel in mid-summer. Select well-ripened current year’s growth. Alternatively, layer shrubs in early autumn, eventually separating the plants two years later.

Pests and diseases Holly leaf miner can be a problem. The larvae tunnel into the leaves. If only a few leaves are affected take them off and burn them. Insecticide will kill the adult insects, but the larvae are more difficult — a systemic insecticide may be effective.

19. May 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Ornamental Shrubs | Tags: , | Comments Off on Ilex (Holly)


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