Index > Garden Blog

Date: 16 Jun 2019, Entry id: 1560690662-2

Horned Holly - a cool bonsai plant

By Onika Amell, tropical plant specialist

Q: I live in Chickasaw, Alabama. I am a beginner bonsai grower. I received a lovely little Horned Holly as a birthday present and I want to know if it is a suitable plant to bonsai?

A: The Ilex cornuta - Horned Holly, or Chinese Holly, is very popular as a bonsai species. It is loved for its very beautiful and distinctive rectangular foliage and for its small, white flowers which give way to large, red berries. The berries are larger than those of the European Holly. The leaves are rectangular and unusually shaped with three large spines at the apex. This bonsai will take both sun and shade, but semi-shade is preferred in midsummer. If indoors, give it plenty of bright light. When kept outdoors, your Horned Holly bonsai will need some frost protection and should be sheltered from strong or cold winds. It will need a fair amount of water and should not be allowed to completely dry out. Watering during the heat of summer is especially important, as well as in spring right before the fruit production, and should be reduced during winter. This species will also appreciate regular misting of the foliage. Repot this bonsai every 1 to 2 years in early spring, using bonsai soil - TopTropicals Adenium Soilless Mix. Fertilize the holly every two weeks throughout the growing season using either a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength. We recommend for this purpose Tropical Greenhouse Plus - Plant Booster. Pruning should be done in early spring.
Horned Holly is also very popular as a hedge plant as it grows dense and compact. It will grow to between 3 and 5 feet tall and will spread to an equal distance, giving it a round, shrubby form. It is cold hardy! Zones 6 through 9. It will tolerate a wide variety of soils as long as it is well-drained. It likes sun or part shade. It is heat and drought tolerant once established, and are often used in xeriscaping. Its branches produce dark olive-green foliage that is often cut for indoor decorations during the holidays.

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