Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is prized for its small, densely packed leaves. Often grown as hedge plants, Japanese hollies in general are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 6 through 8, although some cultivars are cold-hardy to USDA zone 5 and heat-hardy to USDA zone 9. Most cultivars feature dark-blue berries that stand out against the plants' bright-green leaves. The numerous Japanese holly cultivars grow at different rates of speed, from very slow to moderate.
It's hard to know exactly how fast a plant will grow because much growth depends on the climate, weather and immediate habitat. In general, however, plants with a slow rate of growth grow 12 or fewer inches per year. Plants that grow 13 to 24 inches per year have a medium or moderate rate of growth, and plants that grow 25 or more inches each year are classified as being fast-growing, according to "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" by Michael Dirr as cited on the Arbor Day Foundation's website. Most Japanese holly cultivars fall into the moderate rate of growth range.
Very Slow Growth Rate
The cultivar "Compacta" is just as it sounds -- a small, compact plant that is so slow-growing that it rarely needs pruning. This round, evergreen cultivar is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9 and features deeply purple berries. It grows to maximum a height and width of 6 feet.
Slow Growth Rate
"Golden Gem" grows slowly to a maximum height and width of about 2 feet. Desirable for unusual yellow foliage, this cultivar is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. "Bennett's Compacta" is almost the exact opposite of "Golden Gem" in appearance. It features dark-green, leathery leaves, but it also grows slowly. This cultivar is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9 and grows to a maximum height and width of about 4 and 5 feet, respectively.
Moderate Growth Rate
"Sky Pencil" has a distinctively tall and slender profile. This Japanese holly grows at a moderate rate to a height of more than 6 feet tall. The maximum width of this plant, however, is only about 3 feet. "Sky Pencil" is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 and makes a striking container plant. "Soft Touch" is an unusual holly because its leaves are soft to the touch. The shiny green leaves also have silver vein running down their middle. This moderate-grower is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 and grows to a maximum height and width of 3 feet. "Drops of Gold" is perhaps the most visually stunning of all the Japanese hollies. The moderate-grower features bright-yellow leaves on its crown and dark-green leaves underneath. "Drops of Gold" is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 and grows to a maximum width and height of 3 and 6 feet, respectively.
- North Carolina State University: Ilex Crenata
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Hollies for the Landscape in the Southeast
- Arbor Day Foundation: About Growth Rate
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Ilex Crenata "Golden Gem"
- Monrovia: Bennett's Compact Holly (Ilex Crenata "Bennett's Compacta")
- Monrovia: Compact Japanese Holly (Ilex Crenata "Compacta")
- Monrovia: Sky Pencil Japanese Holly (Ilex Crenata 'Sky Pencil")
- Monrovia: Soft Touch Compact Holly (Ilex Crenata "Soft Touch")
- Monrovia: Drops of Gold Japanese Holly (Ilex Crenata "Drops of Gold")