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Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’

When you think of holly, you may picture a rounded or triangular shrub and bright red berries. That's accurate, but there's also a great holly that's tall and skinny—an evergreen exclamation mark in your garden. Read about Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'.

Common name: 'Sky Pencil' Japanese holly

Botanical name:Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’

ilex crenata sky pencil

Virtues: Tall, skinny form makes it useful as a focal point in the garden. Great as an upright, evergreen accent in small gardens or tight spaces. Use two to flank an entryway, one as an accent, several in a line as a screen or several at intervals to lead the eye deeper into the landscape.

Foliage: Shiny dark green leaves.

Flowers/Fruits: Small white spring flowers; small black fall berries. Neither are conspicuous.

Habit: Fastigiate (columnar), multistemmed evergreen shrub to 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

Season: Year-round.

Origin: Introduced to the trade by the United States National Arboretum in 1992. This holly was first discovered in the wild on Mt. Daisen, Honshu Island, Japan, by Norihiro Shibamichi. While on exploration in Asia in 1985, Sylvester March of the USNA and Rick Darke (then with Longwood Gardens) received a donation of cuttings from Dr. Masato Yokoi. They propagated and trialed the plant over the next several years, then 'Sky Pencil' was released. Also marketed by Monrovia as Ilex crenata Sky Sentry.

Cultivation: Grow in sun or part shade. Prefers moist, slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Does not need to be pruned or trained to maintain its shape. USDA Zones 5–9.

Image courtesy of Monrovia. Credit: Doreen Wynja.

Small garden? See 400 Trees and Shrubs for Small Spaces.

Add vertical interest with a trellis or pillar.

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