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Jenn Nawada explains how to identify and care for holly plants and incorporate them into landscapes. She notes that many holly plants keep their distinctive dense, glossy leaves all year, making them an excellent foundation plant for your garden design.

The holly bush is a beloved symbol of Christmas and wintertime. It adorns cards, holiday wreaths, and garlands. But, this evergreen is worth celebrating beyond the holidays and will add cheer to your landscape all year long. Read on to learn more about two popular types of holly, where they grow best, and how to care for them.

Many holly plants keep their distinctive dense, glossy leaves all year, making them an excellent foundation plant for your garden design. Hollys typically appear in colder months. Each fall, they produce their trademark red berries. But watch out, the berries are poisonous for humans, so take care around them if you have small children.

The Most Popular Types of Holly

There are more than 480 species of holly—they are a large and diverse group that ranges from small shrubs to tall trees. Which option is suitable for your yard or garden? It depends on what you’re looking for.

Ilex Meserveae (Blue Holly)

Ilex Meserveae (Blue Holly) Martin Hughes-Jones/GAP Photos

This species, also known as blue holly, is a hearty variety that looks similar to the classic European holly associated with Christmas because it produces red berries in the fall. Its leaves are bluish-green, but they have the same shine and leathery texture.

Blue Holly is also a fast grower that will stand about six-to-eight feet tall once it’s matured. The stems are a purplish color, and in the spring, this holly sprouts small white flowers. This plant is tolerant of the cold and grows best in northern parts of the United States.

Ilex Crenata (Japanese Holly)

Ilex Crenata (Japanese Holly) topiary Rob Whitworth/GAP Photos

Native to Asia, this slow-growing variety of holly is exceptionally dense and durable. It resembles a boxwood more than a Christmas decoration—instead of spiny, prickly leaves, the crenata has small, spineless convex leaves with a deep green color. Their berries are deep purple or black and often are hidden under their leaves.

Japanese holly is a good choice for your garden if you’re looking for shrubs or topiaries. They do well with regular pruning and are good at maintaining their shape. You can plant this variety in USDA zones 6-9, but they don’t do well in areas with harsh winter weather.

When to Plant Holly

Both Blue Holly and Japanese Holly can tolerate full sun to part shade. They prefer moist, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. If you’re looking for an easy-to-care-for evergreen, you should plant them in the spring and enjoy them all year.


Jenn tells viewers about holly species, highlighting the Ilex Meserveae (blue holly) and Ilex Crenata (Japanese holly). The Ilex Meserveae thrives in USDA growing zones 5-8, while the Ilex Crenata does well in USDA growing zones 5-9. Both species can be sourced at garden centers.

Stonegate Gardens provided expert assistance with this segment.