Sky pencil holly - anyone have experience with it?

jens_garden(z7 MD)April 27, 2005

Hi all,

I would like to plant several 'sky pencil' (Ilex crenata) holly at the corners of my house, to add some height. Does anyone have any experience with this plant? From what I've read it should do well in this region, but I wanted to make sure before spending the $$ on plants.


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Larry Kahn(7b)

I have one that's doing fine. Slow grower, though. You might want to start with something decent sized unless you're willing to wait.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 1:11PM
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jens_garden(z7 MD)

Thanks Larry. I saw some plants at Behnke's that were about 3 feet tall, I guess that will have to do. I assume any larger than that would be prohibitively expensive. This is a tough area, too shady for upright junipers, so I saw this holly and was pretty excited about it.

By the way I checked out your garden pages - WOW! I have a ranch style home too and I especially love what you did in the front. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 2:49PM
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I was interested in that holly, but it doesn't get tall enough for what I need. I think it maxes out at 10 feet or so? I need something like Skyrocket Juniper that will reach 20 feet. But I'd prefer something green rather than blue. I did get a lot of good ideas over on the Conifer forum that I'm checking out.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 3:40PM
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They grow fast in full sun, but that is not often where they are put. I lost one in deep shade. They were a more finicky about moisture than I expected, not tolerating either extreem dry or wet.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 10:34PM
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With regards to Behnkes, if history is any indication, they usually have a 40% off sale on father's day. If I recall, their larger sky pencils were around $80.

I thought about some acouple years ago but picked up some 4' b&b hicksii yew for $20 at Home Depot.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 6:40AM
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Mandyvilla(7a No.VA)

Wow, am I ever glad I read this. I saw a Sky Pencil in Front Royal yesterday for $7.95 and forgot to go back and get it after my meeting. Everything has a reason! It was only 12" to 18" tall and I would have been a bit impatient since it's a slow grower. Now I will NOT be going back for it. Suz

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 7:55AM
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jens_garden(z7 MD)

News flash - I found 5 gallon Sky Pencil for $20 at Costco in Beltsville. Quite a deal considering they were $40 for 2 gallon size at my favorite nursery. Now I can spend more money at the nursery on that Rhododendron I've been coveting :) Just thought I would pass this on in case anyone else was interested in this holly.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 9:53AM
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As an alternative, I recommend "Greenspire" euonymus. Very similar in appearance to "Sky pencil" and like all euonymus, tough as nails and quick growing. Behnkes has quart plants for about $10.

There is a specimen plant at Brookside Gardens near the front side entrance to the Visitors Center.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 1:37PM
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philipw2(7 MD/DC)

My experience with sky pencil is that they really respond poorly to shade or dry. I have a zelkhova, not even a maple, with nandina, euonymous, hydrangea (Oakleaf and smooth leafed) growing quite happily under it. But the sky Pencil are just not making it.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 7:58AM
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CompostaRosa(z6 MA)

Hi Jen,
Actually I just planted two in containers in my son's Philadelphia Terrace garden. These hollies are lovely and should do very well for you in Maryland. I believe you can go as far south as southern VA with them. Give them an acid mulch and keep them moist, especially the first couple of years. Interestingly enough, I have learned, you do not need to worry about getting both a male and a female with these lovely compact specimens. As long as there is any other type of male or female holly in the vicinity your hollies will cross-pollinate. The berries are just lovely, nearly black and the plant itself needs very little care.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 5:44PM
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SE Georgia, zone 8b, gardening issues more like zones 7-9. About sky pencil holly - yes, I bought 12 sky pencil holly from Lowes for $64 ea - 7 gallon size, 5'-6' in height. I needed them for a strong vertical statement in my landscaping scheme and it was my only choice in my planting zone. They get direct west sun from noon to sunset with slim to none protection. I cultivated the acidic soil base with about 4 inches of amendments appropriate for evergreen planting. The cultivated area measured 24'x10' in front of a solid (no windows) outside wall. I placed the sky pencil in a staggered pattern in front of the wall. Sky Pencils are dependable performers. Although they grow VERY slowly, they can be easily pruned. Most people wouldn't bother, but I'm very picky and I prune. Sky Pencils don't mind pruning at all. Other vertical evergreen choices (junipers/arborvitae) don't like pruning and if you have a bad spot, you're basically stuck with it. Not so with Sky Pencils. Give them plenty of acidic, nicely draining, good soil and pay attention to their water needs and they will perform. They grow exceedingly slowly, so if you need height and don't have 20 years to wait, buy tall or choose something else. Very dependable everygreen foliage for zones 7-9.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:29AM
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I bought a 4' tall one two years ago. Planted it in a tall narrow planter and put it on the porch. Two years later I transplanted it in the garden because it seemed rather stunted in the pot. When I unpotted it, the root ball was *unchanged* from when I bought it. It just didn't put out roots. It's green and alive, though. I hope it is happier in the garden.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 7:21PM
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We planted two about four years ago. They were only a couple of feet at the time, now the are over 5 feet. First couple years they didn't do much but have really taken hold now. I love them and want more.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 2:05PM
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I am in the process of digging out some ornamental grass along the fence line in full sun. They are beautiful but too much maintenance for me. I would like to put in the Sky Pencil Holly as a hedge. I really want to have a collection of perennial flowers in front of the hedge and to fill in around.

My soil is clay. Will these do okay? They are pretty expensive and I am afraid to invest!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 1:46PM
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cayuga2008(zone 5)

Bump bump. Has anyone grown Sky Pencil in New England?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 9:54AM
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