Drops of Gold Japanese HollyIlex crenata 'Drops of Gold' (PP# 14,420)
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Ilex crenata 'Drops of Gold' (PP# 14,420)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Drops of Gold Japanese Holly is a colorful and bright evergreen bush, forming a broad mound that is easily trimmed into any size and shape you want it to be. When grown in full sun the leaves take on bold golden variegation, often being solid gold, contrasting with the dark green of the interior foliage. The small leaves and bush habit make this plant look more like boxwood than typical holly bushes. Grow it as bright accents, as a colorful hedge, or for groundcover in larger beds.
Grow the Drops of Gold Japanese Holly in full sun for the best leaf coloring. It grows well in almost any well-drained soil, growing most vigorously in slightly acidic soils rich in organic material, but easy to grow almost anywhere. It is very resistant to heat and drought, grows in urban conditions and resists salt near the coast. Pest or diseases are very rare, and it can be trimmed at almost any time, with ease.
When we think ‘holly’, we usually think ‘spines & red berries’, but there is another, very different holly that is perhaps more like a boxwood plant than a holly bush. This is the Japanese holly, which in gardens is usually a small, shrubby plant forming broad mounds. It is a great plant for hedges and evergreen planting, especially in areas where boxwood doesn’t grow so well – for example, in hot, humid locations. Most of these plants are green, and in our gardens it’s important to balance out the green with some contrasting colors – sometimes just a little is needed to bring a dull garden to life. This is where golden plants are so valuable, and for a golden evergreen, it is hard to find better than the ‘Drops of Gold’ Japanese Holly. The ends of all the branches are decorated with golden leaves, in contrast to the green leaves deeper inside, so that it really does look like liquid gold has been poured over the plant. It forms a broad, spreading mound, wider than tall, and it’s ideal for an accent among green plants, for a colorful hedge, as well as for container planting. It’s very tough and reliable, growing well in urban conditions and average gardens.
The Drops of Gold Japanese Holly is a mounding evergreen bush that within 5 years will be at least 18 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide. The ultimate size, if untrimmed, could be more than 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide, but the size is easily controlled by trimming. This plant has a natural bushy form, with many branches. The leaves are densely packed along the branches, and they are about 1 inch long and ½ inch wide, smooth, glossy and oval, tapering to a very short tip, with slightly serrated edges but no spines. They perhaps most closely resemble the leaves of boxwood. When grown in sun the new leaves develop gold variegation, which entirely covers the leaf, or sometimes the golden leaves have thin green edges. Older leaves, and shaded leaves, are dark green. The overall effect is of a heavy dusting of gold all over the plant, making a bright splash in your garden.
Around the end of May, or into June, clusters of small greenish-white flowers may be seen at the base of the leaves on older stems. These are usually more abundant on untrimmed plants. If you have a male Japanese holly variety in your garden to be a pollinator, you may see small black berries developing by the fall, but these are not particularly decorative.
Grow the Drops of Gold Japanese Holly as a highlight of color in the foundation planting around your home. Use it to cover areas of ground in beds, or as an edging on larger beds. Trim it into a hedge (space plants 18 inches apart) of almost any size and form. Use it for topiary balls, domes, and other rounded shapes. It also grows well in containers, needing nothing with it to brighten a terrace or patio.
The Drops of Gold Japanese Holly is hardy throughout zone 6, and all the way into zone 9. It is more heat and humidity resistant than many other holly bushes, and certainly more resistant than boxwood, which makes it a great substitute for that plant, which is difficult to grow in southern parts of the country.
We recommend growing the Drops of Gold Japanese Holly in full sun. When grown in areas with more than an hour or so of shade each day the leaves will be much greener, and in deeper shade it will be entirely green. It grows well in just about any soil that isn’t always wet, although it has a slight preference for richer soils containing plenty of organic material that are slightly acidic. However in practical terms this plant will grow easily just about anywhere. It is resistant to heat, drought, and high humidity, once it is established. It has some salt resistance, although less than plain green Japanese Holly does.
The Drops of Gold Japanese Holly is normally untroubled by pests or diseases. It is easy to grow, and benefits from some evergreen fertilizer in spring. It can be trimmed as needed, to shape it into hedges, mounds, balls and other decorative forms. Trim anytime between late spring, once the first new growth has matured a little, and early fall. Later trimming may stimulate new growth that is more prone to winter damage.
Japanese holly, also horned holly, Ilex cornuta, grows wild in Japan, eastern Russia, China, and Korea. Wild plants often grow into small trees with thick trunks, but almost all the plants in gardens in Japan, China, Europe and America, are selected forms with small leaves and compact growth.
R. W. Byrnes Nursery Inc is situated in Geneva, Ohio, and it was there that Ron Byrnes was growing some Japanese hollies of the variety ‘Hetzii’. That variety has a rounded, shrubby form and is like a larger version of the popular Convexa Japanese holly often used as a substitute for boxwood. In the winter of 1987 Ron spotted a unique branch on one of the plants, a branch with golden leaves. He took cuttings and grew the plants to study them more. When he was satisfied that they were stable and valuable for gardens, he named his new plant ‘Drops of Gold’ and patented it in 2003. It was originally released by the Conard-Pyle nursery, Pennsylvania, under their Star® Roses and Plants brand.
If you are tired of struggling with boxwood and its problems and diseases, switch to Japanese holly – you won’t regret it. For an easy golden accent shrub you can’t beat the ‘Drops of Gold’ Japanese Holly, so order your plants right away. Our stock is limited and won’t be on our farm for much longer.