Japanese Holly Care – Tips On Growing Japanese Holly Shrubs

japanese holly
Image by Tomwsulcer

By Teo Spengler

If you are looking to plant an easy-care hedge in a mild region, Japanese holly can work well. These pretty evergreen shrubs have small green leaves, shiny and spineless, and require very little maintenance. 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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