Tips for Growing a Japanese Holly

Japanese Holly.jpg

Most gardeners wrongly consider Japanese holly to be a member of the box family. However, Japanese holly, also known as Ilex Crenata, belongs to the holly family. Japanese holly is an evergreen shrub with soft leaves. It has small, silky, dark green leaves that are oval in shape with little scalloped edges.

Japanese holly is commonly found in gardens of North America, Korea and Japan. It is often planted as an alternative to boxwood. In Japan, locals clip the Japanese holly into pom-poms or intricate cloud shaped bushes. They have calm green gardens with a carpet of moss that serves perfectly as a background for the dark green leaves of the Japanese holly that can live up to a 100 years.

Japanese holly can be used in formal gardens along with other foliage plants. London Pride, black-leaved Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' etc. can all grow well with Japanese holly. Japanese holly has a slow growth, which makes it perfect for small gardens. Here are some tips to grow Japanese holly in your garden.

Soil and Location

Japanese holly needs a moist, rich, acidic soil with thick mulch and good drainage for its healthy growth. These shrubs are easy to grow on all kind of soils as they adapt easily and tolerate clay and lime.

Like all the other hollies, the Japanese holly has male and female forms, but only the female forms can bear berries. Plant them in a location that has full sunlight along with some shade.

Japanese holly can grow very well in pots, but make sure that you check on it to prevent the roots from freezing. Place them in sheltered pots in bad weather and feed them slow-release plant food to maintain healthy foliage. The Japanese holly shrub can tolerate humidity, wind, slope and heat. The water range should be from normal to moist.


You can grow Japanese holly by stem sections and semi-cuttings. Start looking for new shoots in July to September. Growing Japanese holly from seeds takes around 2 to 3 years for germination.

Cut the shoots up to 1.5 to 12 inches in length and place them in seed trays with 50 percent horticultural sand and 50 percent compost, stripping off the lower leaves. Place the cuttings in a cold frame for a year before placing them in pots individually.

After planting, if it produces a strong shoot of about 12 inches, slash the stem into four parts and place all of them in a 3 inch pot. They will root slowly, but yield larger plants quickly.

You can also grow Japanese holly with spring bulbs in containers, but see to it that you use only small spring bulbs as they can obstruct the height of these low-growing shrubs.

Japanese Holly.jpgPhoto copyright Dave's Garden (