Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Japanese Holly, Boxleaf Holly, Box-leaved Holly
Ilex crenata 'Soft Touch'

Family: Aquifoliaceae (a-kwee-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ilex (EYE-leks) (Info)
Species: crenata (kre-NAY-tuh) (Info)
Cultivar: Soft Touch

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

One member has or wants this plant for trade.


Unknown - Tell us

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Click thumbnail
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By ron_rothman
Thumbnail #1 of Ilex crenata by ron_rothman

By melody
Thumbnail #2 of Ilex crenata by melody


3 positives
No neutrals
3 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative wildbarrett On Jun 3, 2014, wildbarrett from Lakewood, OH wrote:

Planted in a slightly raised bed with very good drainage, along with other Japanese Holly variants. Established well, lovely shrub, and after 3 years flourishing and growing...Suddenly did not make it through this rather harsh winter Northern Ohio 2013-2014 and must be removed. Lost the columnar Sky Pencil Ilex Crenata forms of the Japanese Holly as well, although they had flourished too. Heartbreaking! Whole bed must be dug, brown guys tossed, and bed redesigned. Costly and a waste of time and effort with these, sadly!! I also had a young "nursery" of the Sky Pencils in another location, again, growing beautifully for 3 full years and exceedingly protected from wind and snow. Same thorough damages, so I believe the problem was due to not so much the temperatures, but the prolonged cold. They are lost as well!

Positive cube57 On May 12, 2012, cube57 from Alexandria, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

I just planted about 20 of these around a flower bed and theyre holding up great. Absolutely no complaints.

Negative ngascapes On Nov 15, 2010, ngascapes from Norcross, GA wrote:

We plant thousands of plants a year and from my experience, Soft Touch Holly can be very tempermental, especially in large group plantings. Our latest was about 700 in which we lost 200. Mostly in group plantings around established Willow Oaks, however about a fourth were not. The beds we planted were ammended and slightly raised. I thought that maybe some were lost in the competition for water with the roots of the Willow Oaks, but not 30' from the trees. Now most of the time we used these they are spec'd on jobs and we can't change without real difficulties. If I have a choice on something similar it would be a Dwarf Yaupon Holly.

Negative hewhoisatpeace On Apr 12, 2010, hewhoisatpeace from Pendleton, SC wrote:

I used this plant frequently through a nursery I managed, it is a great size and form, but similar to helleri holly in water sensitivity. Even established plants can develop root rot easil.y from overwatering. Dwarf yaupon, which is very similar in all respects in appearanced, is as much better landscape plant, nearly indestructible in the home landscape.

Positive ron_rothman On Jul 16, 2006, ron_rothman from (Zone 6a) wrote:

we planted 10 of these last fall, and the ones that did well (6 of them) really look great. 2 of them had severe dieback (almost half the plant) over the winter, and had to be replaced. 2 others had enough dieback to warrant possible replacement--rather than wait for the new growth to fill in the dead areas.

Positive clairesn On May 26, 2006, clairesn from Germantown, TN wrote:

This shrub is popular in Memphis as a foundation and walkway border plant, and is used similarly to the Helleri cultivar. It stays low enough to not require heavy pruning under most windows and naturally has a nice, dense rounded shape. Mature specimens tend to be around 2.5 feet tall x 3 feet wide and take clipping well. Leaves are medium-dark green and glossy, with new spring growth a brighter lime green. It's supposed to have blackish berries on the female plants in the fall but I haven't noticed those yet on my plants. I pulled some overgrown azaleas out from our front beds and put in these hollies because this variety lives up to its name. The branches are flexible and the leaves are soft without barbs. It's very comfortable to weed around them in a flower bed. I've read on other sites that it's hardy to zones 5-6 but I can only vouch for the climate here, which is zone 7. I used to live in zone 5/6 St. Louis (300 miles up the Mississippi River) and never saw these shrubs there. I suspect this holly is more Southern than Midwestern.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Midland City, Alabama
New Haven, Connecticut
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Joplin, Missouri
Bridgewater, New Jersey
Sayville, New York
Claremore, Oklahoma
Pryor, Oklahoma
Morrisville, Pennsylvania
Germantown, Tennessee
Alexandria, Virginia
Bristow, Virginia

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