Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)

Sky Pencil Holly

Dramatic upright evergreen! If you need some instant definition or strategic screening in your yard, Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’) works beautifully all year long. It’s sure to turn heads wherever you plant one.

No matter how small your yard is or how little planting space is available, there’s always room for a Sky Pencil Holly! Just as the name implies, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly has a pencil-thin growth habit. This dramatic evergreen Holly cultivar creates a very narrow punctuation point anywhere you place it. It reaches up into the sky, creating a tight, column effect. You’ll gain a marvelous vertical accent with this easy-care shrub. Dark green elliptic leaves fill out the branches nicely.

Sky Pencil is a female cultivar that needs a male pollinator in order to produce small, yet pretty purple berries. You will need to plant a male Ilex crenata nearby if you want to see the small dark fruit. With or without the fruit, Sky Pencil has handsome foliage and a totally unique form.

How to Use Sky Pencil Holly in the Landscape

Some evergreen shrubs can outgrow their allotted space, but not Sky Pencil. This is a well-behaved, columnar evergreen that can work extremely hard in your garden design and provide year-round greenery.

Use a single specimen plant in your perennial bed at a curve or bend to mark the moment of transition. Or, use Sky Pencil as a repeating design element to give a strong structure to your design.

Another wonderful way to use this special plant is in mass plantings to provide an effective low privacy screen in a narrow side yard or another tight spot. For a solid screen, plant Sky Pencil a bit less than 2 feet apart (measuring from trunk to trunk) The plants will grow together.

Use this screening spacing to hide your garbage cans with style!

For an Instagram-ready modern look, plant them in containers and use on your patio. Pair with other evergreens, such as Dwarf Alberta Spruce or Blue Arrow Juniper for a lovely, curated collection. Try your hand at the specialized pruning art of topiary. Sky Pencil Holly makes a wonderful 3-ball topiary and front porch accent for all seasons.

  • Narrow Columnar Form
  • Perfect Hedge Plant
  • Well Behaved Evergreen Accent Shrub
  • Great Container Plant
  • Specimen Plant, Garden Structure & Architectural Accents

Tips for Care

The Sky Pencil Holly will grow in sun or partial shade, transplants easily, and requires no pruning to maintain its remarkable shape. However, it does adapt well to an occasional trim should you prefer to manage its size. This is the perfect small garden plant or condo patio plant.

It’s adapted to a wide range of climates but requires well-drained, slightly acidic soil to perform at its best. Give them full sun and keep the soil moist to keep that beautiful foliage green in color.

Container plants need good water drainage and a consistent water source, plus 3-4 inches of mulch over the top of the soil always helps both potted and in-ground plants. Their root systems won’t tolerate poorly drained soils.

In colder hardiness zones, move containers to a protected patio, or unheated garage, or an east-facing location out of the sun, or even an unheated garage with a window after the plants have gone dormant in late fall or early winter. Do not let them dry out excessively.

  • Full Sun & Partial Shade
  • Moderate Moisture Needs
  • Rarely Needs Pruning – Very Well-Behaved
  • Any Well-Drained Soil
  • Appreciates Mulch & Needs Winter Protection In Cold Climates

This is a wonderful introduction from the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. in 1992. A non-traditional Holly with extraordinary features, the Sky Pencil is sure to bring beauty to your yard in every season and for years to come.

Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’) Details

Common name Sky Pencil Holly
Botanical name Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'
Plant type Broad-Leaved Evergreen
Hardiness zone 5-9
Growth rate Medium, Slow
Height 6 - 8 ft.
Width 1 - 2 ft.
Sunlight Full Sun, Partial Shade
Moisture Medium
Soil condition Well Drained
Pollinator-friendly Yes
Pruning time Late Winter
Flower color White