Information on Compacta Holly Trees


Compacta holly trees are medium-sized plants that grow to 6 feet tall. Japanese hollies in the family Ilex, these plants are good substitutes for boxwood, with tight growth. Easy to care for, Compacta is a semi-hardy evergreen with oval to rounded shiny green leaves -- and thrives as a sheared hedge, suitable for United States Department of Agriculture zones 6 to 8.


  • The Japanese compact holly produces tiny greenish-white flowers in spring. Hollies are dioecious plants, which means that male and female flowers are located on separate trees. The females need a male plant nearby for pollination. Honeybees are extremely attracted to the flowers and transport pollen from the male blooms to the female. A male must be within 2 miles of a female plant to ensure pollination and subsequent fruiting. Even with the presence of a male plant, fruiting can be sporadic annually, with one year abundant in berries and the next barren. Compacta, however, is only male; there are no female Compacta hollies. Consequently, fruit never forms on this plant.


  • Most hollies are associated with the presence of thorns or sharp, spiny leaves. The Compacta Japanese holly has smooth leaves with no sharp edges. The small leaves have none of the characteristic notching that's also a common holly trait and representative of the family. The only evidence of texture on the glossy leaves is a slight serration or scalloping on the edges, which is not sharp like most holly leaves. Japanese hollies also have the smallest leaves of the species, at only about 1/2 inch long.


  • The holly group is extremely varied. It comprises 20 American species, 120 Oriental and over 200 English holly varieties. While not one of the smallest hollies, Compacta is relatively small. Hollies grow from 18 inches to 50 feet in height. Compacta is only 5 to 6 feet tall and is easily kept to a lower elevation by shearing and pruning. It is commonly used as a border or hedge and can take severe shaping without affecting the growth. The holly is so easy to manage it can be pruned at any time of the year -- but avoid pruning in late summer in cold areas. Pruning at that time can force tender new growth, which may be burned in freezing temperatures.


  • The compact Japanese holly is a very slow-growing plant, but it can live for 80 years in good site conditions. This plant thrives in either sun or partial shade. Japanese hollies are not drought tolerant and need a consistent supply of water to keep soil moist. It is one of the most hardy of the smaller hollies and can survive even snowy winters in most of the temperate zones. Compacta needs slightly acidic soils and can sometimes survive in zone 5 if heavily mulched.

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