Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Japanese Holly, Boxleaf Holly, Box-leaved Holly
Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'

Family: Aquifoliaceae (a-kwee-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ilex (EYE-leks) (Info)
Species: crenata (kre-NAY-tuh) (Info)
Cultivar: Sky Pencil
Additional cultivar information: (aka Sky Sentry)

9 vendors have this plant for sale.

12 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

18-24 in. (45-60 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)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

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8 positives
1 neutral
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 Soft Touch form of the Japanese Holly as well, although it 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. We did not have a thaw or meltings to contribute to excessive water or root rot during the winter. They are lost as well! I would NOT recommend Sky Pencil for zones 4 or north, as you just can't control the winters~

Read more:

Positive Fires_in_motion On Jan 17, 2013, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This site's height rating is way off; I've seen them up to 25-30 feet tall. A superior new (native) alternative is a tall, narrow yaupon holly hybrid called Ilex 'Scarlet's Peak.'

Negative gshrine On Jul 19, 2012, gshrine from Indianapolis, IN wrote:

I LOVE the look of this plant so I planted one last fall in mostly sun, by spring after a very mild winter it was looking a touch brown. Still I bought 4 more in the spring, 3 planted in slightly more shade (afternoons) and 1 planted in full on sun. All are dead now just a few months later, the full sun one lasted a few weeks longer than the others. I watered almost daily and this was before the cripling heatwave. I've never lost so many plants so quickly. I'm going to try pillar barbery instead.

Negative HangNail On Jun 26, 2012, HangNail from Hurst, TX wrote:

Planted ten Sky Pencil Holly in south facing flower beds.

First planting of all five died.

Planted five more 03/2012. Two died so far.

One branch dies, followed by remaining branches.

Local DFW nurseryman does not recommend for DFW, and will not sell them. Says not as hardy as advertised, and disease prone. Although larger, suggested Will Fleming Holly.

Positive rkwright85 On Jul 29, 2010, rkwright85 from Horton, MI (Zone 5b) wrote:

This is a very neat plant especially in containers and rock gardens. It's very marginal where I live (zone 5b) and burns easily if exposed to any afternoon sun and wind in the winter.

Neutral mer201 On Mar 30, 2009, mer201 from North Bergen, NJ wrote:

Here in northern NJ I planted a Sky Pencil that suffered a serious case of winter burn on one side. Most of the plant is green, but a large section turned completely brown and died. It was a new planting last fall, and we had a very tough winter this year. I have turned it around so that the remaining good side faces out, but this plant should probably be planted in spring to give it plenty of time to take. I think I will also Wilt-Pruf it next winter as well.

Positive danludwig On May 27, 2008, danludwig from Cincinnati, OH wrote:

Saw & bought one of these at a local greenhouse last fall. Planted it in September to hide a gutter downspout and it survived the winter (Cincinnati, zone 6, barely). I like it so much that I bought 3 more this spring (1 to balance the first at the other end of my yard, and 2 to flank the front door).

From everything I can gather, these sky pencils are females. Wish I could find a male to sex them up so they will flower in spring and make berries in fall. However, I can't seem to find out exactly what kind of male holly (or hollies) will fertilize them.

Positive claypa On Dec 9, 2006, claypa from West Pottsgrove, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

Trademarked as 'Sky Sentry' in Canada. Introduced by the US National Arboretum in 1985

Positive Sheila965 On Apr 11, 2006, Sheila965 from Rincon, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I purchased this plant for my pond area. I live in Zone 8. I've seen it around town so I'm hoping it will live through the winter. It's very beautiful and within two weeks, it already has lots of new green growth on it.

Positive TXMel On Oct 5, 2004, TXMel from Fort Worth, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

We have a pair of these planted on either side of our front door. They have been there for 6 years, and except for yearly trimming their height, they are very low maintenance. I don't know how tall they would be if we let them grow, but now they are contained at our eaves, which are about 10' high. They give a great look of tall Italian Cypress, here in our Texas heat! They are on the West side of our home, and get plenty of sun.

Positive Terencetrent On Mar 10, 2004, Terencetrent from Arlington, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is a very low-maintenance and slow growing plant that provides good a vertical appearance to bed locations. Foliage remains green throughout winter.

Positive Laural On Aug 5, 2003, Laural from Madison, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

This is terrific for "bones" in a small garden. It grows well here,(zone 7 Georgia) in acid soil and high filtered to dappled shade.It is very easy to manage as it grows slowly and vertically, which means it doesn't have to be pruned or moved when it starts to crowd others. Very polite shrub!I'm very pleased with them.


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

Mobile, Alabama
Burbank, California
Mission Viejo, California
San Jose, California
Fort Pierce, Florida
Umatilla, Florida
Danielsville, Georgia
Rincon, Georgia
Peoria, Illinois
Evansville, Indiana
Gretna, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Vacherie, Louisiana
Nottingham, Maryland
Lucedale, Mississippi
Warrenton, Missouri
Brooklyn, New York
Franklin Square, New York
Massapequa, New York
Broadway, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina
Davidson, North Carolina
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
New Bern, North Carolina (2 reports)
Raleigh, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Sandusky, Ohio
Williamsburg, Ohio
Enid, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Cheshire, Oregon
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Bristol, Rhode Island
Chesnee, South Carolina
Culleoka, Tennessee
Germantown, Tennessee
Copperas Cove, Texas
Crowley, Texas
Harker Heights, Texas
Irving, Texas
Newport News, Virginia
Anacortes, Washington

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