How To Grow Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex Crenata)

Ilex Crenata, often called Sky Pencil or Japanese Holly, is a tall, slender, evergreen holly that is frequently utilized in small gardens and landscaping. With its closely spaced leaves, this adaptable plant is ideal for use as a hedge for seclusion. Small gardens benefit greatly from having a single Sky Pencil Holly as their centerpiece.

This holly is native to Japan, as implied by its name. The Sky Pencil Holly will grow pretty easily if the climate is favorable.

How To Grow Sky Pencil Holly

The Ilex Crenata requires little care. They can withstand a variety of climatic conditions because of their thick leaves. You can grow Sky Pencil Holly in the ideal circumstances listed below, along with a comprehensive care guide. The majority of the care will differ based on the USDA hardiness zone in which you reside.

Light And Temperature

Sky Pencil Hollies are designed to flourish between USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 to 9. This shrub is widely grown in zone 5, however success will frequently rely on local microclimates. If you are unclear about which category your zone belongs to, you may check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map here.

The full light is ideal for this holly’s growth. This is wonderful news for plants that are grown outside. You might wish to give some partial shade, especially during the midday hour, if you reside in a region with very strong sun, such as USDA hardiness zone 8 and higher.

Full light will help to boost development if you live in USDA zone 6 or 7. In these zones, some shadow is also tolerable by Sky Pencils, however it will limit their growth. As a general rule, plants will thrive even in the absence of direct sunlight if you can see the sky when you look up, without tree branches or other obstructions that severely obstruct your view.

You need full daylight if you reside pretty up north, close to zone 5. The side of the home that faces south or west is ideal since it receives the most sunlight. If the hollies are vigorous and well-established, they can withstand temperatures as low as -20°F. It would be wiser to grow the holly in a container that you can bring indoors during the harsh winters if you are in Zone 5.

Avoid any strong gusts, especially if it’s cold outside, and shield the Sky Pencil. In addition, bind the branches if there is a lot of snow to keep them from spreading out horizontally.


A young Sky Pencil Holly has to be watered often until the roots become well-established. Verify that the soil is merely damp, not drenched. The likelihood of rotting or fungal diseases will rise with soggy soil.

Once they are established, these plants only require watering during dry times. Before watering, the soil should be dry about an inch deep. The suggested amount of water use is 5 gallons per week, or 1 inch of rainfall. In a hot climate, water a little more regularly.

Examining the color of the leaves is one technique to determine if you are overwatering. The leaves must be a deep green color. They may have been overwatered if they seem lighter or paler. The plant turns brown when it doesn’t get enough water.


If you planted the Sky Pencil Holly in healthy organic soil and covered it with mulch, it often doesn’t require fertilizing. Once a year, in the spring, you can use an all-purpose, slow-release balanced fertilizer if you think your plant might use a little assistance. Water the plant thoroughly after applying the fertilizer.

During the first year of your new holly’s existence, fertilizer is not necessary. If you don’t observe rapid development in the early years, don’t be concerned. For a well-established plant, four to six inches of vertical growth each year is typical. Use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which would encourage the plant to develop quickly, should be avoided. Fertilizer-forced growth is frequently fragile and increases the risk of disease in the plant.


Cuttings of softwood or semi-hardwood are the most dependable technique of propagation. Late spring is when softwood cuttings are harvested. A fresh, supple branch is the best kind to cut. The leaves are young at the tip and adult at the base.

Once the branch has been cut, take off the lowest leaves and carefully remove portion of the base’s bark. Put the branch’s bottom end in a container with a soil and sand combination after dipping it in plant rooting hormones.

The potting mix should be inserted into the stem about midway. Make careful to fully crush the soil. Never let the rooting material get completely dry; instead, keep the nursery container damp and water periodically.

It is challenging to grow plants from seed since the holly berry’s seed germination takes a very long time—up to three years. This strategy also carries a significant danger of root rot.


Even while this shrub doesn’t require pruning to maintain its graceful shape, some minor trimming is frequently helpful, especially when it’s young. By being trimmed, the holly can become more stable and have stronger stems that can sustain its development.

Since the plant is not actively developing throughout the winter, pruning is best done then. Both the top and the sides can be pruned. Limit the amount of growth you remove while cutting to manage height. Focus on the branches that are shedding leaves when trimming the sides, and clip the tips. The holly will gradually get bushier as a result.

Always ensure that the equipment is sterilized before using it because contamination might result in diseases. Before using the tools, clean them with a 10% bleach solution. Spray a prescribed fungicide on the stems right after after pruning.

How To Plant Sky Pencil Holly

Terrestrial Sky Pencil Holly thrives in soil that is acidic. Between 5 and 7 is the optimal pH range. A healthy holly needs good drainage and a foundation of organic materials. The optimal time to plant a new shrub and check the soil’s acidity is in the fall.

Single Plant On The Ground

After deciding where to place your new bush, make a 6 inch-tall by 12 inch-wide hole there. This ought to be plenty to cover the root ball and leave additional room for the soil. Although this holly doesn’t have a lot of roots, you shouldn’t put it too close to anything significant or your house’s walls—no closer than five feet.

To make the mix required for planting, use a wheelbarrow. Make a mixture by combining potting soil, peat moss, and mulch in equal parts. Mix some compost into the soil if it has a lot of clay or sand. By pressing down on the dirt with your foot, apply the mix after setting the new shrub in the hole. Once planted, cover the area with an organic mulch layer and water it thoroughly.

As A Hedge

The plants should be spaced around two to three feet apart if you wish to grow a hedge. If you’re considering utilizing Sky Pencil Holly as a privacy screen, keep in mind that the first several years will experience modest growth, thus the benefits will only become apparent afterwards.

In A Container

This shrub may be grown in pots since its root system is not invasive. Use the same soil mix as mentioned above. The pot should have a minimum diameter of 12 inches. For around three years, the plant should be good in its first container. Later, it can be transferred to a larger container or planted in the ground.

Common Problems

Discolored leaves are a typical issue for producers of Sky Pencil Holly. Yellow leaves are frequently an indication of pests or fungi, exposure to cold conditions, or iron shortage.

Pests like scales, spider mites, and leaf miners frequently pose issues for holly plants, particularly Sky Pencil Holly. The best treatments for such pests are horticultural oils and insecticides.

Tar spot and Botryosphaeria canker are only two issues that can result from fungal infections. Small yellow dots on the leaves that eventually develop into holes are the telltale signs of tar spot. The stems were destroyed as a result of Botryosphaeria canker, which sliced through the stems and caused the tissue to wither. For the plant to survive, the damaged leaves and branches must be removed. Neem oil is a useful remedy that is safe for both people and animals and functions as both a fungicide and an insecticide.

The Sky Pencil Holly can become infected with Phytophthora and Pythium fungi, which can make the roots black and finally cause the plant to deteriorate. Root rot risk is increased by excessive watering and inadequate drainage.

Living in a cold climate or experiencing a particularly chilly winter might result in winter burn. The discoloration starts at the leaf tips and spreads to the stem’s base as a result of it. A winter scorched holly can be helped by maintaining wet soil. Mulch surrounding the base will aid in moisture retention.

A lack of iron, commonly known as iron chlorosis, is brought on by excessive irrigation or poor drainage. This frequently suffocates the roots, making it difficult for the plant to absorb the iron from the soil. The leaves generally have dark green veins and become yellow as they age. If you believe you are watering properly, it’s possible that the pH is too high or the soil doesn’t have enough iron. The best course of action is to apply a spring fertilizer high in iron.


One of the primary reasons this plant is so favored for landscaping is the way its leaves looks. The texture is thick due to the tiny size and close arrangement of the leaves. Even yet, it doesn’t appear completely leafless. The fact that the leaves are visible gives it a richer texture.

Late April sees the emergence of tiny, greenish-white blooms, which have no decorative value. This holly may yield black, pea-sized berries in the fall, but they are obscured by the leaves and hard to see.

The stem is hidden by the leaves, which extend up from the ground. The blooms and berries are not particularly beautiful, and the leaves have a dark green tint. Due to these qualities, it is an extremely adaptable ornamental plant.


Ilex Crenata Hetzii is a shorter variation of the Sky Pencil Holly. Although it barely reaches a height of 6 feet, this species grows upright like its sister Sky Pencil Holly. It has wider, glossier leaves. They thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 8.

Another cousin of the Sky Pencil Holly is Ilex Crenata Helleri. With a maximum height of 3 feet and a maximum width of 4 feet, this plant practically has a spherical form. It is thought to be a diminutive variation of Ilex Crenata Hetzii. The Ilex Crenata Hetzii’s leaves are comparable to these. They are excellent as foundation plants because of their form. A variant of the above Helleri with golden leaves is called the Golden Helleri.

Landscaping Uses

the enjoyable part is now! This amazing and uncommon holly shrub is a lot of fun to play with, and it can do anything from breathe fresh life into your garden to give your entryway some upscale vibes.

Sky Pencil Hollies make beautiful landscape plants because of their graceful form and texture. All year long, people are interested in their evergreen leaves. This plant has a great vertical design that may be used as a hedge, a solitary decorative plant, or as accent points in various exterior home corners. You are confident that no one will fail to notice it because of its entire height of 10 feet.

Sky Pencil Hollies are frequently used to grow a hedge as a privacy screen. When there is a little gap between the side of the house and the exterior property boundary and any other large shrub would not provide enough room for you to stroll there, this holly is extremely helpful. You can keep those nosy eyes away from your home without taking up a lot of area if you grow this tall, slender shrub.

A row of these hollies, however, can also be used as a hedge in front of your home. This is less common, though, because other shrubs grow more quickly and serve as a privacy screen more quickly. Particularly if you want to frame the entryway or the entrance to the driveway, a single or two statement Sky Pencil Hollies in front of the home look fantastic.

On the front and sides of your home, the Sky Pencil may be used for a variety of additional practical purposes, such as concealing air conditioners or downspouts for gutters. Another way to breathe life into a monotonous, continuous fence is through repetition.

The Sky Pencil Holly particularly stands out in terms of garden style in addition to being useful plants. It distinguishes itself from other landscape plants with less refined leaf thanks to its comparatively fine texture.

In our gardens, we frequently choose a subdued mixing of plants and flowers without thinking too much about making a statement. When used as a vertical accent, the Sky Pencil Holly will bring attention to its immediate surroundings when combined with a statue.

Additionally, you may employ many hollies in your yard by arranging them in an oval or square configuration. A variety of them can be combined to define limited spaces and provide striking symmetry.

Sky Pencil Hollies can also be haphazardly planted through beds. It’s a great option for planting because of its naturally large base and evergreen foliage. They can act as vertical identifiers inside a plant cluster. If flowers are planted in front of a Sky Pencil Holly, their vivid colors will stand out more more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Sky Pencil Holly Toxic?

The poison of the berries and leaves is typically exaggerated despite their mild toxicity. The poisonous substance is ilicin.

Intoxication that might endanger an animal’s life is extremely uncommon, according to pawsdogdaycare.com. Animals wouldn’t consume a lot of the berries and leaves because of their bitter flavor.

If youngsters find the berries appealing, they may consume excessive amounts of them, increasing their risk of intoxication; nonetheless, there have been no reported fatalities.

How Fast Does Sky Holly Grow?

The sky pencil holly grows at a rate of around 4 inches each year during its first few years. This holly grows at a rather sluggish rate. Once it has a solid foundation, it grows around 6 inches annually.

Why Is My Holly Turning Brown?

Brown leaves might be a symptom of leaf scorch if you’ve just experienced a chilly winter. The effects of frigid weather typically take time to manifest themselves after the worst has passed. Frozen ground, wind, and a strong light all result in fluid imbalances inside the plant. Dehydration results from this, and the leaves begin to brown from the tip inward. During the dry seasons, you should be sure to water your plants often.

Additionally, brown leaves may indicate a fungal infestation. Sunken areas on the stems are a symptom of botryosphaeria canker, which also causes the plant to become brown. The troublesome stems eventually die off, and removal is advised to stop the infection from spreading further.

How Long Does A Sky Holly Live?

A Sky Pencil Holly lives 40 years on average. Consider this when you design your landscaping.