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Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata)

(15 customer reviews)

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About Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata)

The Sky Pencil Holly, also known as Japanese Holly, is an upright columnar evergreen shrub composed of dark green foliage that keeps color year-round and often will form small purple to black berries in the fall if a male pollinizer is present. Unlike other holly shrubs, the leaves of this Holly are rounded and lack sharp points, making it ideal for an entirely different placement.

Japanese hollies work well on decks, patios, or entryways. Their upright habit makes for a tall accent or privacy screen that makes a bold, formal statement. In addition, they are fast-growing, low maintenance, and free from prickly leaves, which makes you understand why this has become such a popular choice. A fully mature Sky Pencil Holly can reach up to 10 feet in height but will remain a narrow 2-3 feet wide, only requiring some light pruning near the top.

Sky Pencil Holly Care

Choosing an appropriate location for your Japanese Holly Sky Pencil will be the most significant determining factor of how well it grows. Avoiding extreme temperatures and planting in full sun to partial sun will help ensure a healthy life. This Holly is cold-hardy in USDA zones 6-9.

While they prefer acidic soil, they tend to adapt well to just about any soil as long as it drains

Water deeply after planting and continue to water several times weekly for the first few months. After they have established themselves, you can reduce your watering schedule to only exceptionally dry spells.

After planting, add 2 – 3 inches of mulch to the base of the Holly to protect the soil from drying out.

Pruning Your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly

Light trimming is often beneficial, especially when they are still young. Trimming helps the holly gain stability and form sturdy stems that will support its future growth. Prune in the winter as the plant will not be actively growing. If you choose to do so, prune the sides and top being sure not to remove more than a third of its growth.

Japanese Holly Sky Pencil Companion Plants

A few familiar companions you often find with these shrubs are available here at! Boxwoods, viburnums, and hydrangeas pair together very well in any landscape or as foundational growth, and we have several to choose from.

Here are some of our favorite companion plants!

Sky Pencil (Ilex) Japanese Holly Spacing Recommendations

Space Your Sky Pencil (Ilex) Japanese Holly 2-3 ft apart to form an evergreen hedge or natural privacy barrier using the shrubs. If you are looking to cover more ground placing them 4 feet apart of more may be more suitable for your needs. The slender, tall growth habit makes these unique plants multi-functional.

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Common Name
Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata)
Scientific Name
Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'
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Average Size
5-10' H x 18-24" W
Bloom Season
Test Your Soil with Soil Test Kits from Plants by MailTest Your Soil with Soil Test Kits from Plants by Mail

15 reviews for Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata)

  1. Carol (verified owner)

    Love these little trees. Arrived well packaged . Beautiful little plants!!

  2. Connie Shaffer (verified owner)

    I bought 5 of the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly to put at the edge of our patio. They came in very good shape even though deli ery was delayed a couple of days due to shipping issues (not nurseries fault). They were very stabilized in a tall box. I took them out, watered as directed and planted them immediately
    They have done very well and I’m very pleased with them.

  3. Glenda Harper (verified owner)

    They came quickly and looked healthy. I got the 6.

  4. Jan Medrano (verified owner)

    Both plants are in great shape. They were packed well and arrived on time.

  5. Deirdre Haynes (verified owner)

    This plant is a total experiment in my garden because my nonstop humidity and hard to balance soil ph make for a difficult environment. Sky pencil has surprised me and made it through the most difficult time of our summer. As the temperatures begin to lighten up i notice that sky pencil is ready to show its potential. I expected it to be dead in 3 weeks, but it is putting on new growth and and isnt as hard to keep watered as i thought.

  6. Michael P (verified owner)

    Hello, I ordered a large number of sky pencils by mail. I was a little skeptical from the outset but it was easy and less expensive than going to a local nursery. The plants arrived in great shape, healthy and tall. Also, I emailed and spoke to Christy several times. A solid overall experience. I recommend.

  7. SouthGA Gigi (verified owner)

    The plants arrived very healthy and packed with care. I had ordered 6 but have planted 4 so far. I would order plants again from this business.

  8. Matthew Nestander (verified owner)

    I was a little worried ordering these in the heat of summer and shipping such an upright/rigid plant. The shipping was fast and packaging was great. Both are doing great in ground!

  9. Saveliy (verified owner)

    Excellent service. Fully satisfied with the order.

    • Team PBM

      Thank you. We are very pleased you’re pleased. – Christy

  10. John Montandon (verified owner)

    Only two of the five I ordered survived. The three that died were too large for the shipping box and were folded/bent to fit inside the box, and were dead at the top 1/4, or so when they arrived. All three of those died. The two that survived look nice and seem to be growing.

  11. Rosemary Hambrick

    I ordered 25 Japanese Holly plants to create a hedge between me and my neighbor. I scanned out neighborhood garden centers and could not find plants of the same size in these quantities. They arrived in great condition. They are in the ground now and all doing very well.

    I also orders some small
    knockout roses. They are doing great and look superb. If you are looking for more than the odd plant, plants by mail is the way to go.

  12. Sharon Lunde (verified owner)

    Arrived in excellent condition. Plants seem very healthy.

  13. Darrel V (verified owner)

    I ordered 2 of these. They arrived in great shape. These were my first purchase. I will be ordering from here again.

  14. Lynda Sheridan (verified owner)

    Part of my Sky Pencil Holly plant order just arrived. I ordered 2.4 gal and I’m fully satisfied Hopefully the others arrive and are as beautiful

  15. mmnail0392 (verified owner)

    I bought two of them. They are so interesting to look at and they don’t bush out. I have the perfect window to put them in front of to tackle some of the summer sun. At least I hope they like it. I will take good care of them and maybe order more. They were both 3ft tall and came in special cardboard boxes that were tall and had tabs close to the bottom that held the pot steady. I have never had plants sent to me in such good condition. VERY HEALTHY!! I live in an isolated town in Arizona and don’t like to drive, so I order plants online. By far this is the best online provider for plants. I plan I ordering from them again and again.

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