Chinese Holly Care: Tips On Growing Chinese Holly Plants

chinese holly
chinese holly
(Image credit: saraTM)

You don’t have to travel abroad to admire Chinese holly plants (Ilex cornuta). These broadleaf evergreens thrive in gardens in the American southeast, producing the classic shiny leaves and berries beloved by wild birds. If you want to know the ins and outs of caring for Chinese hollies, read on.

About Chinese Holly Plants

Chinese holly plants can be grown as large shrubs or small trees up to 25 feet (8 m.) tall. They are broadleaf evergreens with the same, glossy green foliage so typical of hollies. Those growing Chinese holly know that the leaves are rather rectangular, about 4 inches (10 cm.) long with large spines. Blossoms are a dull greenish white hue. They are not showy but offer a whopping fragrance. Like other hollies, Chinese holly plants bear red drupes as fruit. These berry-like drupes stick on the tree branches well into winter and are very decorative. The drupes also provide much needed nutrition for birds and other wildlife during the cold season. The dense foliage is excellent for nesting. Wild birds that appreciate this shrub include wild turkey, northern bobwhite, mourning dove, cedar waxwing, American goldfinch, and northern cardinal.

How to Grow Chinese Holly

Chinese holly care starts with correct planting. If you are wondering how to grow Chinese holly, you’ll do best to plant it in moist soil with excellent drainage. It is happy in full sun or partial sun, but also tolerates shade. Growing Chinese holly is easiest in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. These are the recommended zones. You’ll find that Chinese holly care doesn’t require much time or effort. The plants need an occasional deep watering in dry periods, but they are generally both drought resistant and heat tolerant. In fact, growing Chinese holly is so easy that the shrub is considered invasive in some areas. These include parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. Pruning is another important part of Chinese holly care. Left to its own devises, Chinese holly plants will take over your backyard and garden. Heavy trimming is the ticket to controlling them.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.