Ilex crenata 'Sky pencil'
Shiny dark green leaves all year on a narrowly upright frame. Ours is still young, but we intend for it to be a focal point in our front-yard lane. Although the small creamy flowers in June are easy to miss, the black berries in fall have some ornamental value.
||columnar japanese holly
evergreen shrub (Z6-9)
||small cream (late spring)
||to 6-10' high, 18" wide
||ordinary garden soil
This plant used to grow in our garden, but it slipped away...
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Visitors to this page have left the following comments
|Laura R. Baker||Jul 10, 2004||I just recently planted some sky pencil holly and the leaves on one of the plants have turned brown, however the branches are still pliable. We had a lot of rain and I wondered ir it got too much. Do you think the plant is dead or will it still come back? I appreciate your feedback.|
Laura - I grow and like this plant, but am by no means an expert. I suggest you try asking your question on one of the Gardenweb forums. Thanks for visiting.
|Ginny Phillips||Jan 17, 2005||Hi, I am thinking of planting a Pencil Holly in our backyard. I try to plant shrubs that produce berries to benefit the birds. Is this a self-pollinator or will I need a male plant?|
Good question - I don't really know, but we have just the one plant and it does bear fruit. Of course there may be other Japanese hollies in the neighborhood.
|Steviepittsley||May 01, 2005||Hi !!! Love your plants. I have many photoa of various plants , at my group site at Yahoo Http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/playinginthedirt
Feel free to browse, and snag any pix that you can use... Join if you'd like, and feel free to add a link .... happy gardening !! Stevie|
Hi Stevie, thanks for the offer. All the photos on this site are from my own garden, though, and that's the point of the site. I'll stop by your group for a look-see though :-)
|Joby Tasker||May 09, 2005||Do you know how cold hardy this particular cultivar of holly is? I live in an area where we can have pretty harsh winters, will this species survive?
Joby, the information I have suggests it is hardy to USDA zone 6, meaning it may survive winters with temperatures down to -10°F. We had a few nights down to -5°F this winter, and the holly fared just fine.
|Christina||Jun 20, 2005||I am thinking of planting a few of these sky pencils. Do you know how much they will grow in a season?|
They are slow growers, in my experience. Ours has put on maybe a foot of growth in two years.
|Chiara||Jul 06, 2005||I purchased a sky pencil which I would like to plant next to the mason stairs going to the patio. How far from the stairs should I plant it so that when it grows it will be just on the side without actually overgrowing the stairs. I would really appreciate any suggestions that you might have.|
From my information, it would seem that about 1 foot away should meet your needs.
|Kathleen||Jan 13, 2006||This plant will be used at the entrance of a high school, and I need to know if the berries on this plant are poisonious ? |
I cannot find any indication that it is poisonous - but to be sure, I would contact your local poison control center.
|Mike||Apr 15, 2006||I have 3 sky pencil hollies that were in terra cotta pots on our deck all winter and they seemed to do just fine-- nice and dark green, etc. but in recent weeks have become brittle and dried out. I'm afraid they are all going to lose their leaves! Our lowest temperature was +6 but we had a lot of wind all winter. Have you heard of anyone having problems like this? Mike outside Boston.|
Did they get enough moisture through the winter? As evergreens, they need more than deciduous shrubs, even though (just like a Christmas tree) they may not show that they are in distress while temperatures are cold.
|Tim Walton||May 28, 2006||My twp pencil hollys are planted in a very small area in terms of soil. The area is about 2'x 2' and their leaves are falling off. Both bushes are looking thin and sick. my water sytem runs about 10 minutes twice per week. They are at the edge of the garden and do not get alot of water but I think they get run off under groung from the rest of the flower beds. Do you think that they need more or less water fom the symptoms that I am describing?
Sorry Tim, any advice I'd give you would be guesswork - I'm not an expert on their cultural requirements. Mine doesn't get a whole lot of water, and seems to do OK.
|Caroline||Jul 05, 2006||Hi, I like your website! I am considering planting sky pencils as a privacy border. I have a smaller yard and thought they would provide a more narrow border. Do you think they would work for this? |
Caroline, I think they are better used for accents - in my experience, they grow too slowly to be useful for privacy hedging.
|Nicole||Oct 07, 2006||Great site! Question for you...have you experienced any problems with planting the sky pencils in pots rather than the ground?|
Nope - I have just one sky pencil, and it's planted in terra firma.
|Phyllis||Sep 01, 2008||Hello can you tell me the difference in the Pyramid Holly and the Pencil Holly? They really look alike to me. Does the Pyramid really grow in a Pyramid shape in stead of straight up and down like the pencil Holly? Or are the Pyramids just pruned that way.|
I've not grown pyramid holly - perhaps somebody else will know the answer...
|ACWinOH||Oct 18, 2008||I planted our Sky Pencil 05/2006 and it put on a lovely growth spurt and then slowed dramatically. Ours is the focal point in our raised entry bed with bright shade and appx 37" tall now. I've not had berries so I'm guessing I have a male? No worries, I'm very happy with the plant. He started out at appx 25" so you see what I mean by growth spurt the first year. We are Zone 5a-ish on Lake Erie Coast in Northern Ohio and have not had problems despite the fact that I often forget to water. - Carol|
|Jeri / just north of Atlanta||Mar 21, 2009||No comment, just a queston! I am considering planting two pencil holly bushes in pots next to my front entrance. I have a large front porch, so, the plants will receive good indirect sunlight, but no direct light. Will they live/thrive in this environment?|
In your climate, that may be just right. Good luck.
|ardenia||Apr 02, 2009||I have an area of 9"x10' in the shade. I'd like to plant the sky pencil. it would have to grow about 5' tall to fit the purpose of privacy. is this area too narrow this plant?|
|Jack||Jun 04, 2009||We recently had four Sky Pencils planted. Two have a cord tied around them, the other two don't.
Should the cords stay or be cut? Or should each have a cord around them?|
I've no idea what the cords are doing, but they certainly aren't necessary, and could become harmful in the long run. I would remove them.
|nevada smith||Jun 12, 2009||The sky pencil is not very hardy in any part of Ohio. It's somewhat like spending your money on Rhodos and Azaleas in the Spring buying rush! Garden Centers love it but they hope you don't bring them back to be replaced under the warranty! Of course every "exception" proves the rule, I know some folks have had luck with this plant, but please don't waste your money buying it. Buy a Green Mountain Boxwood, it is much hardier and can be shaped in this bizarre shape!
Lanscaper for 30+ years!!!|
|August||Jul 02, 2009||Has anyone had problems with flies in their sky pencils? Ours seem to be breeding flies in late June and July.
|Sherry||Jul 13, 2009||I have two sky pencil shrubs but recently they have dried out and are shedding of their leaves. Do you know if the shrubs are cut all the way back, will they come back healthy? |
|Dania||Sep 19, 2009||I have planted nine sky pencils throughout my Oklahoma garden (zone 7). Four have had leaves turn yellow and then dry out and the plant dies. The stems turned a gray color (almost like aspens). When I pulled them up, the roots did not look unhealthy and were still alive. They are supposed to be easy to grow and I don't understand what has happened. Has anyone else experienced problems with them?|
|rock||Oct 02, 2009||What time of the year do I plant sky pencils. I live in Kansas City, MO
They will be planted in the ground, not in containers|
|tisha||Oct 25, 2009||I want to plant the sky pencil plants in containers to put on the front porch on each side of my door and put some pansies with them.
I thought they would look nice with the holidays approaching.
How do the sky pencil plants do in containers? I have heard that I need to put rocks, or something in the bottom of the pot so that the roots don't become root-bound. Any suggestions will help.|
|Sara||Apr 03, 2010||Mine did not do well in containers on either side of the front door. Because they were in partial shade, and did not get direct rainfall, over the winter they came down with a case of spider mites. I moved the one survivor to an area where it could get brighter sunlight and rain, and it did much better. It is best to keep out of the wind in the winter, mine did experience some leaf burn this winter. I live in Dallas, TX.|
|Marylou||May 22, 2010||My sky pencils outer branches are drooping. What to do? I was thinking perhaps of pruning those down to a point where they do not droop. Good idea? and, why do they droop? Perhaps not enough fertilizer? I have sandy soil.|
|Trish||Jun 07, 2010||Hi I have two of these plants and for some reason they seemed to be harvesting black flies. I don't know how to get rid of them and why this is the 3rd year this has happened. It's quite gross to walk out the door and be swarmed by the flies. Do you have any suggestions on how to rid of these flies without killing the plant?
Hmmm, yes, sounds unpleasant. I don't know the answer, but I'll leave your question up in case somebody else does.
|pat||Jun 09, 2010||I have had the same issue with flies for 5 years. This year I will be cutting them down and planting a shrub that does not attact flies. You might try pruning them as they flower, because it is the flower that attracts them. I hate to cut them as the mockingbirds a cat birds love the berries they produce.|
|dorothy||Jul 14, 2010||I planted a pencil holly early this past fall. It has done well until this past week or two and the leaves near the top are turning brown , not all but some. The stems are not brittle but seem still green. It is on the south and west side of the house about two feet or so from the house.I am in the Ft Worth area, and wonder if they get too much sun.Could anyone help me with it?|
|Dorothy C||Nov 15, 2010||I Love the look of the Pencil Boxwood, however, it's not for zone 5.
Is there another evergreen I can grow in Chicago, IL with the same grow pattern. I want something for privacy for a corner lot house.
Thanks You.....Mrs Dorothy C
|pennsylvania fran||Mar 19, 2011||I agree with nevada smith! I love my pencil holly shrubs and I have five of them. First one started to get brown and the leaves fell off and I tried to save it but it looks really sick. Next two more have the same problem and so i have only two left and i'm not sure whether the three sick ones can be saved or not. I've had them for two years now and it looks like i will have to start over...not happy about it!!|
|Sonya||Mar 29, 2011||Hi, I have to 1/2 barrels on either side of my front porch. I would like to plant a sky pencil in each of them. The area the barrels are in get full sun and in the summer it's very hot. I live in Downsville, Louisiana. Do u think they will thrive where I want to plant them? I can't plant them in the ground on either side of my porch since in rainy seasons it doesn't have well drainage there and the ground is clay/iron ore.|
I honestly don't know how well they'd do - I'm afraid that without a bit of shade, and without constant watering, they might not like their above-ground homes. But I may be wrong: your climate is quite different from ours.
|Angie||May 22, 2011||If your plants are not looking healthy, one of these things is the problem: Sun (or shade), water (too much,too little),soil (too acidic, too alkaline, too hard, too sandy). If the top turns brown-not enough water and too hot, if it turns brown on the bottom-too much water. Trial and error makes the best gardners. Happy gardening.|
|Mary||Jun 02, 2011||Our 7 year old sky pencils flank the front door. They are very vigorous shrubs and are getting too tall and too broad. I need some advice about pruning them. When the verticle branches are pruned, they put out at least 5 new arms at the stump. Is it possible to reduce the height and girth of these plants without cuting the main verticle branches to the ground?|
|Kamela||Jul 10, 2011||Can you plant sky pencils in bright shade in pots???|
You sure can. Whether they'll thrive depends on your climate, how regularly you can water them, and just how bright that shade is.
|Mary Hassall||Nov 29, 2011||I am trying to find someone in the U.K. who sells the Sky Pencil. I need to plant it this year (because I'm old and it's slow growing)does anyone know where!! |
|Beth Wilkes/Charlotte, NC||Dec 06, 2011||My pencil plant is about nine years old and it needs to be pruned is now a good time to prune it? Any special instruction about pruning it? It appears to be healthy but is too wide for the area it is in and needs to be cut back at the top a couple of feet.
I'm not sure what is the best time to prune these. Personally, I'd wait till early spring.
|Juanita||Apr 09, 2012||I'm looking at the pencil tree for the front of my house, I have alot of deers that love to get to my srubs, do deers like this this plant?|
|loraine robson||Jul 23, 2012||I have a sky pencil that has some sort of white fungus on the edges of the leaves. What can I do.?|
|Howard||Aug 29, 2013||Rob,
People are asking a lot of questions but you don't seem to have many answers for them. It would be better if they address these questions to someone who has considerably more expertise than you seem to have.
My comment form says "feel free to use the form below to leave feedback about this particular page". It's not primarily meant for questions, and I certainly don't claim to have answers for all questions. For some, I can and do provide meaningful help; for others, I leave the questions up in case somebody more knowledgeable comes by and can provide an answer.
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October 10, 2004