Lusterleaf HollyIlex latifolia
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Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Lusterleaf Holly is a very un-holly like evergreen that could be mistaken for a Southern magnolia. The large, glossy leaves are smooth, tapering and up to 10 inches long, with no spines and just the hint of a serrated edge. This tree grows rapidly, adding 3 or 4 feet a year, and soon it will be over 20 feet tall and around 10 feet wide, with one or more sturdy trunks and a pyramidal to rounded crown. It can potentially produce a crop of attractive clusters of orange-red berries in fall and into the winter months. Grow this tree near wooded areas, on a large lawn as a handsome specimen, or around your home.
The Lusterleaf Holly is tolerant of partial shade, and it also grows in full sun. It grows best in rich, well-drained acidic soil, in zones 7, 8 and 9. It needs no special attention or pruning, pests and diseases are very rare, and deer usually leave it alone. The berries attract songbirds, and this tree fits well into natural parts of your garden. A male tree is needed for pollination if berries are to be produced.
Good-sized evergreen bushes and small trees are great additions to the garden, giving welcome shade and creating a mature and stable atmosphere. Holly bushes are familiar parts of the evergreen landscape, but they are a much more diverse group than just spiny, clipped bushes. The Lusterleaf Holly, or Tarajo (pronounced: tara-you), is a large shrub or small tree with very large, smooth, glossy leaves that could be mistaken for a Southern magnolia. The leaves have just a hint of a serrated edge and no spines. This is one of the fastest-growing holly trees, adding 3 or 4 feet a year, and rapidly maturing from a bushy shrub into a small, multi-stem tree with stout stems and smooth, gray bark. It is a handsome addition to any garden, fitting well into both more formal looks and casual, woodland areas. Clusters of dark-red berries can develop at the ends of the branches, making an attractive fall and early winter show.
The Lusterleaf Holly is a large shrub or small tree, growing rapidly to a height of 20 to 25 feet, with a width of 7 to 12 feet. It will add 3 to 4 feet of growth a year when young, and soon change from a bushy shrub into a pyramidal to rounded tree. It develops one or more trunks, which are strong and broad, soon growing a foot or two in diameter. The gray-brown bark is smooth and attractive, becoming rougher and browner only on old trees. The leaves are the largest of any holly, and not like the classic spiny leaf at all. They are long, graceful ovals, tapering to a point, and they are typically about 7 inches long, but they can be well over 10 inches long. They are smooth, leathery and lustrous, in a rich mid-green color, with lighter-green undersides, and they keep their green color all through the winter months. Look closely and you will see small serrations along the edges of the leaves, a faint echo of the strong spines of most other holly bushes.
In April or May mature trees bloom, producing clusters of small, greenish-yellow flowers on short stalks among the leaves. Trees may be either male or female, like all holly bushes, and if fertilized female trees develop big, bold clusters of many orange-red berries, each ¼ inch in diameter. These mature by late summer and through the fall, eventually being eaten by your local bird populations.
This fast-growing tree is perfect to add diversity and richness to your shrub and tree collection, and its graceful outline and sturdy trunks make it an attractive specimen anywhere. Grow it in natural areas, along the edges of woodlands or by a stream. Plant it at the back of large shrub beds to add height and interest. Plant it against a blank wall or in the angle of two walls around your home. It makes a handsome specimen tree on a larger lawn, and an interesting hedge when grown in a row and trimmed once or twice a year. If you have limited space it is valuable grown as an espalier, with its branches spread out across a wall, trellis or fence.
The Lusterleaf Holly is an excellent, reliable evergreen in zones 7, 8 and 9.
Valuable for planting in both full sun and partial shade, the Lusterleaf Holly grows well in the company of deciduous trees and in open wooded areas. It grows best in moist, well-drained acidic soils, but once established it is reasonably drought resistant.
No significant maintenance is needed to grow the Lusterleaf Holly. Some shaping as it develops and choosing how many trunks it has can be done as it grows, but pruning is only needed if you are growing it as a hedge. It is best to plant where there is sufficient room for its final development. Pests or diseases are rare, and deer normally leave this tree alone.
The Lusterleaf Holly, Ilex latifolia, is native to Japan and parts of China. In Japan it is called たらよう, tarayō, which means like the leaves of a palm tree. It grows on Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, the three major islands of central Japan. There it is grown in parks and temple gardens, and a bitter tea is made from the leaves.
We love being able to offer our clients unusual and interesting trees and shrubs, and the Lusterleaf Holly certainly fits into that group. Add fascinating variety to your garden and grow something unique and plant a Lusterleaf Holly – or several. You will love this tree, and when someone asks, “What is that?”, you can tell them all about your special tree. We have many plant collectors among our clients, so these trees will be sold out very soon – order now while we still have stock available.