Ilex – Holly –
There are about 400 species of evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers in this genus. They occur in woodland in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions, with the majority species occurring in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They are grown for their foliage and berries. The leaves may have smooth edges, spine toothed, or rarely scalloped edges, and are usually simple and alternate sometimes in opposite pairs. Flowers, borne from spring to early summer, are held singly or in clusters or cymes. They are small, cup shaped, up to 3/8″ across, each with 3-8 petals, usually white or cream, but may be pink, green, or lavender-blue. Male and female flowers are usually borne on separate plants, both sexes are needed to obtain fruits. In temperate climates, Hollies bear fruits in autumn. The red or black, occasionally white, orange, or yellow berries are spherical, sometimes ellipsoid, and may cause mild stomach upset if ingested. The wood of some species is used for veneers and musical instruments.
Grow hollies in a woodland garden, or as specimen trees, some make good hedges or windbreaks. I. aquifolium and I. x meserveae cultivars, several I. crenata cultivars are useful in a rock garden.
Grow these fully to marginal hardy plants in moist but well drained, moderately fertile, humus rich soil in full sun (which produces the leaf color in variegated hollies) or in partial shade. Plant or transplanting is best done in early spring. North American species prefer neutral to acid soil while European and Asian species are less fussy.
Prone to aphids, scale insects, leaf miners, and Phytopthora root rot.
I. purpurea – I. chinensis of gardens – This conical, evergreen tree from China and Japan grows 40-45′ feet tall and 12′ feet wide. It produces elliptic-lance shaped, occasionally ovate, mid to dark green leaves, 2-4 ½” long, purplish green when young. Bears ellipsoid, glossy red fruit, to ½” across.