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China® Boy Holly

Ilex cornuta x rugosa ‘Mesdob’

China® Boy Holly

Ilex cornuta x rugosa ‘Mesdob’

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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 China Boy Holly is a cold-resistant evergreen shrub with dark-green foliage and an excellent symmetrical form, making a bush up to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It is excellent for hedges and windbreaks, and as a specimen evergreen around your home or out in the garden. As well it is the pollinator of choice for the China Girl Holly, which will produce a huge crop of berries if this male tree is growing nearby. Just one male will pollinate up to 10 female trees, and this variety will also pollinate ‘blue’ hollies, the Chinese holly, and some other hybrid holly bushes.

  • An essential pollinator bush for the China Girl Holly
  • An excellent evergreen bush with rich green foliage
  • Has a good symmetrical form without trimming
  • Grows well in zone 5 and warmer parts of zone 4
  • Vigorous and reliable, with abundant pollen production

The China Boy Holly will grow well in zone 5 without winter damage, and even in zone 4 with some protection. It grows best, and produces the most pollen when grown in full sun, but it will also grow in partial shade. Plant in rich, moist, well-drained soils – once established it has moderate drought resistance and resistance to salt spray as well. Pests, diseases and deer usually leave it alone. Trim once a year after the spring flowering is over, for neatness and good pollen production.

Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9
Mature Width 6-8
Mature Height 8-10
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones 4-9

We all love to see holly bushes filled with those sparkling red berries, to cut for wreaths, or just admire in the garden. But many people tell us their bushes never have berries, and how disappointed they are. This is almost always because they don’t have a suitable tree nearby as a pollinator. The holly plant has separate male and female trees, and the pollen from a male tree, in flower at the same time, is needed for berries to form. The best breeders make sure they release a male tree that matches their female trees, and that is what Kathleen Meserve did when she released the China Girl Holly bush, back in 1980. She also gave us the China Boy Holly, a matching male tree that is a vigorous grower, with great holly foliage and an excellent form, that is also just as cold-resistant as China Girl. If you plant one male China Boy tree for about 7 female trees, you will see abundant crops on China Girl, as well as on all the ‘blue’ hollies, like Blue Princess, as well as on many other types of holly. So don’t forget to include at least one plant of China Boy with your order, and remember too that this is a great foliage evergreen in its own right – vigorous, dense and hardy – and worth growing even if you don’t have a female tree that needs a mate.

Growing the China Boy Holly

Size and Appearance

The China Boy Holly grows at about 6 inches a year into a dense, bushy evergreen shrub with a good symmetrical form and branches to the ground. It will be about 6 feet tall in 10 years, and go on to be a bush about 8 to 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide. The glossy, dark-green leaves are about 2 inches long, rectangular ovals, with 2 or 3 spines down each side and one at the tip. They have that classic ‘holly leaf’ look that is perfect for making wreaths at Christmas. The leaf color is kept all year round, making this an excellent background shrub in your garden.

This is a male tree, so you will see small white flowers along the stems in spring, but of course no berries will develop. This variety is an excellent pollinator for the China Girl Holly and for all the ‘blue’ holly bushes, forms of Ilex x meserveae. It will also pollinate most other holly bushes that open their blooms around the same time, including forms of the Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta. You only need one male tree like this to pollinate several female trees, so when planting a hedge put one male after every 6 to 8 female trees, and your whole hedge will be full of berries. The pollen can travel as much as a quarter-mile, but for good results 100 feet is suggested as the maximum distance away to plant a male tree.

Using the China Boy Holly in Your Garden

The China Boy Holly can be used in the foundation planting around your home, as a clipped or unclipped shrub, or planted out in your beds. Plant it as a windbreak, alone or with female holly trees, or as a hedge, spacing plants 3 to 4 feet apart in a row. It also fits well into open woodland gardens.


The China Boy Holly is completely hardy in zone 5, and it is one of the best holly bushes to grow in that zone. With some attention to winter protection it can also be grown in sheltered parts of zone 4. In that zone, use anti-desiccant spray in early winter to protect the foliage, and keep plants well-watered through the winter months.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

The China Boy Holly will grow best in full sun, and produce the most pollen. Flowering will be reduced in shade, but as long as it has about 6 hours of sun each day it will grow and bloom well. Moist, rich, well-drained soil is best, and very alkaline soils are not so suitable for holly trees. Enrich the soil when planting. Once established this plant is tolerant of ordinary summer drought, and it has moderate resistance to salt spray as well.

Maintenance and Pruning

Even deer leave the China Boy Holly alone, and pests and diseases are rare. Trim in late spring, after flowering, and avoid trimming more than once a year if you want a good supply of pollen for your female bushes.

History and Origin of the China Boy Holly

The China Boy Holly was selected by Kathleen Meserve as a male companion for her hybrid holly bush called China Girl. These plants were created by crossing a cold-resistant Japanese holly called Ilex rugosa with the Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta. Meserve wanted the good foliage and abundant berries of the Chinese holly on a plant that would tolerate low temperatures. She made these crosses around 1970, and by 1980 she was ready to release her plants. She named her best male tree ‘Mesdob’ and patented it in 1982. It was released with the trademark name of China Boy® by the Conard-Pyle Company, a wholesale nursery holding several brands. The patent expired in 2002 and the trademark was cancelled in 2016. Kathleen Meserve is famous for creating the ‘blue’ hollies, a group of hardy evergreen holly bushes with Ilex rugosa and the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, as parents. These are classified as Ilex x meserveae, but the China Boy Holly is not part of that group, because of its different parentage.

Buying the China Boy Holly at the Tree Center

Many nurseries don’t bother to stock male holly bushes, and they don’t tell you that their berry-carrying bushes need a male. We won’t do that, and we recommend you grow male trees of a few kinds in your garden if you have a selection of holly trees. For the China Girl Holly nothing can beat China Boy, but order now because male trees are rarely available, and they sell out fast.

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China® Boy Holly

Ilex cornuta x rugosa ‘Mesdob’