There are many situations in the garden where a small dense, evergreen plant is needed – one that is easy to grow and tolerant of different conditions. It may be needed to edge a bed, make a green mound in foundation plantings around the house, look elegant clipped in a pot or urn, or filling a space in a bed between more exotic flowering plants. If these kinds of plants are left out of your design, the garden can become a jumble of color and not have a unified and calming appearance. A number of different plants are used by gardeners for this purpose but the Soft Touch Holly is a particularly suitable plant because of its small leaves, lack of problems and adaptability. It will grow in full sun or partial-shade in most types of soil, it keeps its glossy, rich-green foliage all year and it will remain neat without constant clipping.
Soft Touch Holly is not particularly like the ordinary Holly bushes you may already know. It does not have spines, which makes it a great choice for gardens with small children. It only grows to around 3 feet tall, so it will not take over even the smallest garden and is excellent for a very low edging hedge. Its small leaves give it a neat appearance and unlike other Japanese Hollies it is not rigid and hard, but literally soft to the touch, with flexible branches that spring back when touched. It naturally grows into a dense mound so it will look neat without any clipping, or it can be clipped once or twice a year to give a more formal shape.
The Soft Touch Holly is a special form of the Japanese Holly, Ilex crenata, also known as the Box-leaved Holly because of its small leaves. This plant grows in Japan, China, Korea, Russia and the Philippines. It is found in a wide range of places, from the coast to the mountains and in the open or in woodlands, an indication of the adaptability of this plant and why it is so useful in the garden.
If you have considered Japanese Holly before and found it was not hardy, Soft Touch Holly is your answer, since this plant is hardy right through zone 5, while many other forms of Japanese Holly are barely hardy into zone 6. Since it will grow all the way into zone 9, there are few places where this plant cannot be grown. Soft Touch Holly was developed in 1989 by a nursery on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and has proved to be perhaps the best form of Japanese Holly available.
Soft Touch Holly has small leaves that are oval in shape and less than an inch long. They are glossy and evergreen, without any spines at all. The leaves are close together on the stems, keeping the plant naturally dense. Flowers are produced in spring and they are small and white. Hollies have separate male and female plants and the Soft Touch Holly is female, so it may produce berries, which are black. These stay on the plant all fall and winter and are a gentle additional feature for this plant.
Soft Touch Holly rarely suffers from any pests or diseases and looks attractive every day of the year. It is also not normally eaten by deer so it can be planted even in areas where these animals may enter your garden. It will grow in most kinds of soil except very alkaline ones, so it will adapt well to most gardens. It is somewhat drought-resistant when mature, but it is best not to let your plants become too dry or be left dry for a long time. Water well and deeply when needed as this is not only best for your plant but reduces the frequency of watering greatly.
Because of its special features it is necessary to grow this plant from verified specimens of the correct plant. Our plants are produced by rooting stem pieces from known plants and growing them to a good size. Avoid cheaper plants simply called Japanese Holly, since these may not be as hardy or have the thick mounded form you are looking for with the Soft Touch Holly.
For individual specimens allow three feet of spread for the plant to reach full size. To make a hedge, space the plants evenly 12 to 15 inches apart. Be sure to keep the spacing even to avoid a uneven appearance. For a hedge dig a trench twice the width of the pots and an inch or two deeper. Mix some rich organic material like garden compost, rotted leaves, peat-moss or rotted manure into the soil and arrange your plants along the trench. For a specimen allow three times the width of the pot. After placing your plants at the same depth as they are in their pots, replace most of the soil and firm it down around the roots. Fill the trench or hole with water and wait for it to drain away. Then replace the rest of the soil. Water your new plants once a week during their first year and then when the soil has become moderately dry.
Each spring fertilize your Soft Touch Holly plants with an evergreen or hedge fertilizer – this can be a liquid type for new plantings but granular fertilizers will give better growth in mature plants. This will keep your plants a healthy green and growing strongly to keep their dense form. Specimen plants have a naturally dense and rounded appearance and do not need to be clipped unless you want a very formal appearance. Pruning or clipping is best done in late winter or very early spring before growth begins and it can also be done again in summer in required. When clipped into a hedge, be sure to keep the top of the hedge a little narrower than the bottom, to keep dense foliage right to the ground.
Soft Touch Holly is a very popular plant and we are constantly receiving new shipments to satisfy the demand from our customers, who sometimes order large quantities for hedging. However shortages can occur and we can be out of stock from time to time, so order now while plants are still available.