Common holly

Ilex aquifolium | Also known as: English holly, Holly, Ilex, Winterberry | Rating: 0 votes | Print / Pdf

A tall growing tree that will provide all your Christmass decorations forever.

Ilex aquifolium, also known as common holly, is a large evergreen tree. Though the white flowers are rather inconspicuous, common holly develops beautiful and vivid red berries in the autumn. I. aquifolium is a versatile plant and grows in full sun through to dense shade. Whilst drought tolerant once it’s established, common holly needs regular watering when first planted. Its berries are commonly used as Christmas decorations and are a food source for birds during the winter. Common holly can be used a hedging, topiary or allowed to grow into a specimen tree.

Rate it:
Known dangers?
  • yes
Dangers: comments
  • Avoid eating its berries, or risk having mild stomach upset.
Height [m]
  • 25
Spread [m]
  • 8
Dominant flower colour
  • Inconspicuous or absent
Flower Fragrance
  • No, neutral please
Flowering seasons
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
Foliage in spring
  • Green
Foliage in summer
  • Green
Foliage in Autumn
  • Green
Foliage in winter
  • Green
Propagation methods
  • semi-ripe cuttings
  • seed
Growth habit
  • Dense
  • Erect
  • Pyramidal
  • Acidic
  • Neutral
Hardiness zone
  • Z7-9
Heat zone
  • H9-7
Winter temperatures [°C]
  • -18 - -1
Heat days
  • 60 - 150
  • well-drained but frequently watered
Soil type
  • sandy
  • Clay
  • chalky
  • loams
Sun requirements
  • Full sun
  • Partial shade
  • Exposed
  • Sheltered
Standard category
  • Trees & shrubs
  • Shrubs
Grown for
  • Evergreen foliage and ornamental berries
Creative category
  • For Beginners
  • Show-offs
  • Bonsai
  • Neighbour repellant
  • For every season
Garden type
  • Woodland
Garden spaces
  • Specimen
  • Hedges and screens
Gardening expertise
  • beginner
Time to reach full size
  • 30 years or longer
18 Related plants



Ilex, commonly called holly, is an evergreen shrub that can grow very high. Small inconspicuous flowers are produced in the summer, and these develop into bright red berries during the autumn as long as both male and female plants are present. Ilex is extremely hardy and grows in aspects from full sun to dense shade. It prefers a well-drained and dry soil, but can tolerate many various compost types. Holly is ideal as a boundary hedge, and can also be planted as a specimen tree or clipped into a shrubby topiary shape.

Common holly 'Alaska'

PLANTS Ilex aquifolium 'Alaska' | -18°C - -1°C beginner Partial shade, Full sun

Common holly 'Amber'

PLANTS Ilex aquifolium 'Amber' | -18°C - -1°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

Ilex crenata

Japanese holly

PLANTS Ilex crenata | -29°C - -12°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

Ilex crenata is an evergreen hedging plant. Often known as box leaved hedging, ilex crenata is unlike other hollies in the fact that it has no prickles. It’s therefore, an ideal alternative to box hedging, hence its common name. I. crenata can be grown in aspects from full sun to partial shade, and tolerates most soil types apart from those that are waterlogged. In summer it produces small white flowers that develop into black autumn berries for seasonal interest. It’s an ideal hedging plant, but can also be used effectively as topiary.