Carissa Holly

Ilex cornuta ‘Carissa’

Carissa Holly

Ilex cornuta ‘Carissa’


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Carissa Holly is the perfect choice if you want a smaller, rounded evergreen that stays neat and compact without needing clipping. All year it will be tidy, with dense branches right to the ground, and unlike most other holly bushes, it doesn’t have big sharp spines, so it is easy to handle and work around. It grows well in the heat and dryness of zones 7 to 9, and even grows in zone 6 with minimal winter damage. As part of the foundation planting around your home, especially around windows, in the garden as specimens, or as a low hedge, you can’t grow wrong with this low-maintenance bush.

  • Neat, compact evergreen bush
  • Glossy, rich green leaves without large spines
  • Stays tidy with no clipping needed
  • Easily grown in sun or partial shade
  • Resists drought, heat and grows in all soils

Your Clarissa Holly bushes will do best in full sun or partial shade, but even in deeper shade they will remain attractive, but with slightly more open branching. They will grow in almost any kind of soil, except for soils that are constantly saturated with water. Once established this bush is drought resistant, and it is generally resistant to pests and diseases. It will also tolerate some salt spray, and it can be clipped once a year to keep it even more compact and neat, if you wish.

Plant Hardiness Zones 7-9
Mature Width 3-5
Mature Height 3-4
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones 7-9

Everyone wants neat, compact evergreens in their garden, because they bring structure and form, especially around your home and along driveways and paths. With most plants that neatness comes at a price – regular clipping – and for many of us there is simply not enough time in our lives for all that. If this sounds like you, then meet the Carissa Holly. This compact, tough evergreen holly keeps its rounded, neat form all by itself, without the need for regular clipping. It’s a gift to low-maintenance gardening, and to anyone who likes rich green foliage all year round, almost anywhere in the garden.

The Carissa Holly grows steadily into a rounded shrub no more than 3 or perhaps 4 feet tall, and up to 5 feet across. It has dense foliage right to the ground, and neat leaves that are always a deep, glossy green. It will grow in both sun and shade, in almost any soil, and across a wide range of moisture levels. Although it is a holly bush, it does not have the many sharp spines typical of those plants, and which can make them a hazard. Instead the leaves are rounded, with just one very small spine on the tip, which is not likely to cause any problems. This means that you can plant this bush along a pathway, even with children around.

Growing Carissa Holly Shrubs

Use the Carissa Holly wherever you want dense, rounded evergreen plants. It is very popular as part of foundation plantings, not least because it is small enough to plant beneath windows, without the need for constant clipping to keep it from blocking out the light. Alone, in groups of three or five, or planted in a row as an edging, the Carissa Holly is just so useful for filling spaces with rich green, that you will want to use it all over your garden.

Wherever you need a slightly larger bush of a similar form, consider the Dwarf Burford Holly, a closely related shrub that can reach 6 feet tall, with the same softer leaves and rounded form. It also produces the typical red holly berries, which are rarely seen on the Clarissa Holly.

Hardiness and Growing Conditions

The Carissa Holly is completely hardy in zones 7 to 9. It can also be grown in zone 6. There some tip damage may be seen over winter, but this will quickly disappear with the new spring growth. It grows best in sun or partial shade, but it will tolerate considerable shade and yet remain attractive. It will grow in most soil types, doing best in well-drained, moist soil. It tolerates alkaline soil too, much better than other types of holly do.

The Carissa Holly is usually free of significant pests and diseases too, so it truly is a versatile, reliable and low-maintenance evergreen. Best of all, it is the best choice for the hot and often dry summers of warmer zones, which most other holly bushes do not tolerate well. In the South, the Carissa Holly and the Dwarf Burford Holly are the top choices for broadleaf evergreen shrubs, and no wonder.

Care and Maintenance

Without any clipping at all the Carissa Holly will naturally grow into a neat, rounded bush, or create an attractive low hedge. For super-neat gardening, if you want perfectly level hedges, and perfectly round plants, this is easy with just a single annual clip of the Carissa Holly. Do this in early spring, before the new growth emerges, and you will be rewarded with perfect, dense forms that stay that way month after month. No more wild growth that is constantly in need of a haircut to look respectable in your garden.

History and Origins of the Carissa Holly

The Carissa Holly is a selected form of the Chinese Holly(Ilex cornuta) also called Horned Holly. This evergreen grows wild in China and Korea, and it probably first came to America during the great opening of China to trade in the middle of the 19th century. Wild plants are very variable, and they can be a large shrub or even a tree up to 60 feet tall.

After it was introduced into America, plants were often grown from seed. E.A. McIlhenny was a lover of plants who had a nursery on Avery Island, Louisiana, a place famous as the source of Tabasco sauce. Sometime before 1930 he found there a seedling of the Chinese Holly that was very round and compact. He called it ‘Rotunda’, and it was widely planted across the South.

Unfortunately, this plant still has the four large spines at the corners of the leaf, just like the original species, so it can be hard to handle and safely locate in the garden. Sometime later, at another nursery, a sharp-eyed grower spotted a stem that had a smooth leaf edge growing on a plant of ‘Rotunda’, with just one small, soft spine on the tip. Plants were grown from this stem, and this is the origin of the plant called ‘Carissa’. Its softer leaves quickly made it even more popular than its parent.

Our plants are grown from stem pieces of this plant, carefully rooted and nurtured into sturdy bushes. This highly-popular evergreen is in high demand, from everyone who wants low-care, neat evergreens, so our stock will not last long. Order now, to enjoy the Carissa Holly in your garden.

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Carissa Holly

Ilex cornuta ‘Carissa’