China® Girl Holly

Ilex cornuta x rugosa ‘Mesog’

2 Reviews

China® Girl Holly

Ilex cornuta x rugosa ‘Mesog’

2 Reviews


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 Girl Holly is an evergreen bush with excellent cold hardiness, that carries big crops of red berries. It naturally has a symmetrical and dense form, and top-rated foliage, with the classic rich-green look of the best holly bushes. It grows between 8 and 10 feet tall, so it’s a good choice for smaller gardens, and excellent in foundation planting around your home or grown as a solid hedge.

  • Full of beautiful red berries in fall and winter
  • Excellent dark green foliage
  • Naturally dense and symmetrical
  • Very hardy and grows well in zone 5
  • Tough, reliable and deer-resistant

The China Girl Holly is reliably hardy in zone 5 and will grow with a little care in zone 4 as well. It grows best in sun or partial shade, and too much shade will reduce the berry crop. Grow it in any richer garden soil that is well-drained. For a good berry crop a male bush, such as the China Boy Holly, should be grown within 100 feet of your bushes.

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

Holly bushes are without doubt among the best of evergreen shrubs, looking lush and attractive every day of the year. The dark-green leaves bring a richness and maturity to your landscaping unmatched by anything else, and the cluster of rich red berries that decorate them in fall and winter are a sight that fills our heads with holiday thoughts, and a powerful symbol of the Christmas season. Often, though, we associate this look with warmer parts of the country, and gardeners in cold zones might think it is something they can’t achieve. Fortunately that isn’t true, because there is the China Girl Holly. This upright bushy plant has rich glossy leaves and excellent resistance to cold conditions that will kill other holly bushes. This bush carries a big crop of bright red berries for months, and whether you grow it as a hedge, as a clipped specimen, or let it grow naturally in a more informal setting, you will love its ability to shrug off winter chills and look just as good as its southern neighbors do.

Growing the China Girl Holly

Size and Appearance

The China Girl Holly is an upright, bushy evergreen shrub with a well-branched structure, keeping leaves to the ground and growing into a compact, symmetrical bush. It grows about 6 inches a year, so within 10 years it will be about 6 feet tall, and will reach 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 or 8 feet wide when mature. The leaves are broadly oval to rectangular and about 2 inches long. There is a sharp spine at the tip and two or three pairs of spines along the sides, and the leaf is a rich, dark green, with a smooth, glossy surface and a sturdy leathery texture. The leaves hold their color all year round, and the new spring leaves are a brighter green, darkening as they mature.

After a few years of growth your bush will begin to bloom, and you will see clusters of small white flowers at the base of the leaves, along the older stems. Like most holly bushes this plant is not self-fertile, so you do need a suitable male tree to pollinate these flowers and form berries. We suggest the variety China Boy as the best pollinator. You only need one male tree for every 7 female trees, so when making a hedge just slip a suitable number of male trees into the row, and you will have a great berry-filled hedge. China Boy is an attractive evergreen, as lovely as China Girl, and it will often also pollinate other hollies you may have, so one or two male trees is all you need in your garden for prolific berry production.

Using the China Girl Holly in Your Garden

This lovely holly bush is a perfect medium-sized plant for foundation planting around your house, or out in your shrub beds as background plants. It can be trimmed into domes and pillars, or left to grow naturally – it will still be dense and bushy. Use it along the edges of woodland areas, or as a specimen on a smaller lawn. It is also excellent, planted 3 or 4 feet apart, for making dense hedges up to 6 feet tall.


The China Girl Holly is tested and reliably hardy to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, so it grows perfectly in zone 5. At the colder end of zone 5, and into warmer parts of zone 4 it will still thrive, especially if planted in a sheltered spot. Using an anti-desiccant spray, and watering deeply in late fall, will reduce or eliminate winter damage to the foliage in the coldest areas.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Full sun or partial shade are ideal for the China Girl Holly. Too much shade will reduce blooming, and therefore berry production, but this bush grows well with minimal direct sunlight. It grows best in richer, moist soils, but they must be well-drained, so avoid areas with standing water. Add organic material when planting and water regularly during the first seasons. After that this bush had good resistance to normal periods of drought. It also has moderate resistance to salt spray.

Maintenance and Pruning

Pests and diseases are rare and deer normally leave the China Girl Holly alone. Trimming is not needed to keep it neat and dense, as it naturally grows that way. If you do want a more formal look, trim young plants after the first flush of spring leaves have darkened a little. When plants are older and fruiting you can trim later, when you can see the berries developing, to help keep a good crop on your bushes.

History and Origin of the China Girl Holly

Kathleen Kellogg Meserve didn’t plan to be a successful plant breeder – it just happened. She moved to a 10-acre estate on Long Island shortly after WWII, and loved holly at Christmas. At that time it was all shipped in from the northwest, because the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, was all there was to grow. She decided to breed a hardy holly for the northeast, and she crossed the English holly with a hardy Japanese species, Ilex rugosa. The ‘blue’ hollies she created, called Ilex x meserveae, are certainly tough, but they weren’t the only crosses she made. Around 1970 she took the Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta, whose foliage and fruit she admired, and crossed it with Ilex rugosa. Among the seedlings were plants that were much more cold resistant than the Chinese holly, and had good foliage and lots of fruit. One of the best she named ‘Mesog’, and patented it in 1980. It was released with the trademark name of China Girl®, but that trademark, held by the nursery of the Conard-Pyle Company, was abandoned in 2016, and the patent expired in 2000.. Although sometimes included among the ‘blue’ hollies, the China Girl Holly is a different cross, and shouldn’t be called Ilex x meserveae.

Buying the China Girl Holly at the Tree Center

It’s great to be able to offer gardeners in colder areas the chance to grow beautiful holly bushes with that real Christmas look and lots of berries. This popular plant is always in high demand, so order now, while we still have plants available to ship to you.

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China® Girl Holly

Ilex cornuta x rugosa ‘Mesog’

2 Reviews