Japanese holly (Ilex crenata)

The Ilex crenata is one of the most interesting shrubs that can be grown in almost any garden. It tolerates pruning very well, which is why you can give it the shape you want, and there are also different cultivars with different colored leaves and different habits.

It grows in a wide variety of climates, but don’t worry that if you don’t have a garden or it has alkaline soil, you can easily enjoy it in pots.

Origin and characteristics of Ilex crenata

Image – Flickr/ SuperFantastic

Our protagonist is an evergreen shrub known as Japanese holly or crenate holly native to eastern China, Japan, Korea, and Sakhalin. It reaches a height of between 3 and 5 meters, rarely 10 meters. It produces small leaves, 10 to 30mm long by 10 to 17cmm wide, with wavy and sometimes spiny margins, of a glossy dark green color.

It is a dioecious species, that is, there are male feet and female feet. The flowers are white, with four lobes. Once they are pollinated, the fruit matures, which is a black drupe of about 5mm in diameter, in which four seeds will be found.


There are many:

  • Shiro-Fukurin: with variegated leaves.
  • Green Luster: with dark green leaves.
  • Bad Zwischenahn: with gray-green leaves.
  • Ivoy Hall: with yellow fruits.
  • Chesapeake: with erect carriage.
  • Hertzii: with creeping or upholstery bearing.
  • Mariesii: with dwarf bearing.

What are the care of Japanese holly?

Image – Flickr/ MeganEHansen

If you dare to have an Ilex crenata, we recommend you take care of it as follows:


It is a plant that has to be outdoors, if possible in full sun, although you should know that partial shade would not affect it.


  • Pot: fill with acidic plant substrate mixed with 30% perlite or similar.
  • Garden: grows in soils with an acidic pH, between 3.7 and 6. If yours is neutral or alkaline, you could dig a 1m x 1m planting hole, cover its sides with a shading mesh, and fill it with the mixture mentioned before. In any case, for the pH to remain acidic, you would have to avoid at all costs that the natural soil of the garden was mixed, for example by putting a mini-barrier of wood or stones, for example, bordering the plant.


Irrigation has to be moderate. It is a shrub that does not like to be thirsty, and that excess humidity seriously harms it, so do not hesitate to water an average of 3-4 times a week in summer and an average of 1-2 times a week the The rest of the year.

Use rainwater, bottled, lime-free or slightly acidic with a pH of 5-6. And do not wet their leaves as they could burn or fall off before their time.


From early spring to late summer, it is advisable to fertilize it from time to time with organic fertilizers, such as guano, compost or mulch. In this way, you will be growing with health and strength all season .

Related article:How to compost step by step


Image – Wikimedia/ KENPEI

The Ilex crenata is multiplied by seeds and cuttings in winter in mid to late summer. Let’s know how to proceed in each case:


First, you have to stratify the seeds in the fridge (where you put the sausages, eggs, etc.) for three months. This is done by sowing them in a transparent plastic tupperware with a lid filled with, for example, vermiculite that will have been previously moistened with water. It is important that during these weeks, at least once every seven days we remove it from the appliance and remove the lid so that the air is renewed and to check that the substrate is still wet, otherwise, we will water a little.

With the arrival of spring, we will sow them in seedling trays or pots with holes with substrate for acid plants, outdoors, in semi-shade.

They will take a long time to germinate; in fact it may take up to 1 year, but in the end it’s worth it .


It is the fastest and most efficient method to multiply Ilex crenata. For this , semi-hard wood cuttings are obtained from the mature tips of the growth of that same summer. After impregnating the base with rooting hormones (for sale No products found. ) And planting them in pots with 50% mixed perlite and acidic plant substrate, they will root in a period of 1 to 3 months.

Planting or transplanting time

In spring, when the frosts are over.


Late winter. Remove the dry, diseased or weak branches, and take the opportunity to give it or keep it the shape you want.


Resists up to -18ºC and cold winds without problems.

What uses does the Ilex crenata have ?

Image – Flickr/ spike55151

It is used only as an ornamental plant, both in the garden and for balconies, patios and terraces. It is perfect for borders, for pots, and it even works as bonsai because it has small leaves and because it tolerates pruning well.

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