Ilex x aquipernyi 'Dragon Lady'

Holly bushes and berries to grow in the garden

Lustrous leaves and bright berries make hollies fantastic garden plants in winter. But what kinds should you plant? Roy Lancaster picks the best. Photographs Jason Ingram

Ilex is a genus of around 400 species of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs with the common name holly. An estimated 400 species mainly from tropical and temperate Asia and America. The so-called English holly, I. aquifolium, is also native to western and southern Europe and North Africa. The holly season sees autumn and winter fruits and heights vary from 60cm to 25m. Most are easy to grow, in sun or half-shade and average garden soil.


Ilex x Aquipernyi Dragon Lady (=‘meschick’)

Ilex x aquipernyi 'Dragon Lady'
© Jason Ingram

A small tree or shrub of dense, narrow columnar habit with dark shoots, smaller, spiny leaves and red berries. H 6m.

Noble Fir Christmas tree. Photo by Cristian Barnett

Ilex aquifolium ‘Harpune’

Ilex aquifolium 'Harpune'
© Jason Ingram

A distinctive female holly of German origin with a columnar habit and small, narrow, relatively smooth but spine-tipped leaves and small bright red berries. H 3m+

I. aquifolium ‘Pendula’

Ilex aquifolium 'Pendula'
© Jason Ingram

This female develops a broad, umbrella-shaped crown, with numerous branches drooping to the ground. Prickly, dark green leaves and rich purple shoots. H 3m+

I. aquifolium ‘J.C. Van Tol’

Ilex aquifolium 'J.C van Tol'
© Jason Ingram

This female of Dutch origin has relatively smooth leaves and reliable crops of red berries, produced without the need of
a pollinator. AGM*. H 5m+

I. x koehneana ‘Chestnut Leaf’

Ilex x koehneana 'Chestnut Leaf'
© Jason Ingram

My favourite holly needs space to develop its broad-based, dense column, clothed with large, glossy, boldly veined and spine-toothed leaves. Free-fruiting. AGM. H 10m+

Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’

Ilex aquifolium 'Alaska'
© Jason Ingram

A vigorous, broadly columnar or narrowly conical tree with both prickly and smooth green leaves. It is also free-fruiting, even on young plants. AGM H 8m+

Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’

Ilex aquifolium 'Bacciflava'
© Jason Ingram

Probably the best yellow-berried English holly, this is very effective when used with orange-berried I. x aquifolium ‘Amber’ and red-berried hollies in a mixed hedge. H 8m+

Ilex aquifolium ‘Flavescens’

Ilex aquifolium 'Flavescens'
© Jason Ingram

The moonlight holly has plentiful red berries and leaves that are suffused with pale yellow and especially effective when young. Best in full sun. H 5m+

I. x altaclerensis ‘Ripley Gold’

Ilex x altaclarensis 'Ripley Gold'
© Jason Ingram

This cultivar has smooth gold-splashed leaves and abundant red berries. May produce green-leaved reversions which should be pruned away when still small. H 8m+

Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Belgica Aurea’

Ilex x altaclarensis 'Golden KIng'
© Jason Ingram

Strong growing female holly of conical habit with bold usually spineless, glossy-green leaves with a striking cream to creamy-yellow margin. AGM. H 8-10m+

I. aquifolium ‘Laurifolia Aurea’

Ilex aquifolium 'Laurifolia Aurea'
© Jason Ingram

A male holly that makes a reliable pollinating partner, ensuring that female hollies bear berries. Suited to gardens of intermediate size. H 8m+

Ilex aquifolium ‘Amber’

Ilex aquifolium 'Amber'
© Jason Ingram

The long-lasting orange berries are freely borne among glossy, dark green, almost spineless leaves. It makes a handsome large bush or tree. AGM. H 6-8m+

I. x altaclerensis ‘Hodginsii’

Ilex x altaclerensis 'Hodginsii'
© Jason Ingram

Strong-growing male with purple shoots and large, glossy leaves. A reliable pollinating partner for fruit-bearing female hollies.
Best suited to large spaces. AGM. H 14m.

I. aquifolium ‘Silver Lining’

Ilex aquifolium 'Silver Lining'
© Jason Ingram

A female holly of recent introduction with an upright habit; the narrowly cream-margined, wavy leaves set on purple shoots are purple-flushed in winter. H 4m+

I. aquifolium ‘Ferox argentea’

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'
© Jason Ingram

This popular dense-growing shrub bears small leaves with cream-coloured margins. Sterile male flowers. Good for small gardens. AGM. H 2-3m.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Lichtenthalii’

Ilex aquifolium 'Lichtenthal'
© Jason Ingram

One for the collector, a slow-growing female but shy-fruiting holly forming a dense mound of crowded purple shoots clothed with curious long, narrow and twisted, glossy green
leaves with pale midribs. H 1.5m-2m.