Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Toyon, California Holly, Christmasberry
Heteromeles arbutifolia

Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Heteromeles (het-er-OH-mel-eez) (Info)
Species: arbutifolia (ar-bew-tih-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Crataegus arbutifolia
Synonym:Heteromeles arbutifolia var. arbutifolia
Synonym:Heteromeles salicifolia
Synonym:Photinia arbutifolia

3 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

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)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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7 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive manza On Oct 2, 2012, manza from Long Beach, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

Here's an article about this plant:

Positive ogon On Jun 24, 2011, ogon from Paradise, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Forms a large airy shrub with glossy evergreen leaves year-round. Birds love the winter berries, and there pretty white flowers in spring. The flowers have a strong and unappealing scent though, so I would not recommend planting this too close to your house.

Positive Ficurinia On Jul 5, 2009, Ficurinia from Portland, OR wrote:

Here in Portland, Oregon it is a bit more rainy than California, but planted underneath a Doug fir in a dry sunny spot here in the city this plant has done really well. (I live on a volcano so maybe that helps?) Its other friends include a Ceanothus and an Arbutus and they do great where no one else seems to want to grow. The berries are great in the fall/winter and the blooms in summer are subtle yet creamy. The trio does a great job blocking the view pedestrians might otherwise have of our living room and this makes me love it even more.

Though not a confirmed fact, it is possible that the name Hollywood, California originated from the stands of native Toyon in the Hollywood Hills. So, "Hooray for 'Hollywood' Toyon!"

Positive YLcalif On Aug 4, 2005, YLcalif from Yorba Linda, CA wrote:

This plant grows on very little water alongside Prickly Pear cactus in its native chaparral habitat above my property line. After ripping out a slope of ice plant a couple of years ago, Toyons were one of the first native plants to be restored. Some were planted in a raised garden bed with average water and the Toyons became a bit scraggly. But the Toyons planted on the steep slope receiving less water have a much nicer compact form.

Positive Chuck1260 On Mar 26, 2005, Chuck1260 from Arroyo Grande, CA wrote:

Great shrub or small tree. White flowers in the summer and red berries in the fall and winter. One of the principal chaparral plants in California. Fast growing under the right conditions. Water efficient, tolerates most soils. Can be pruned to form a small tree. It is suseptible to fire blight. Looks good most of the year, can tolerate more water than most chaparral natives.

Positive CApoppy On Dec 7, 2004, CApoppy from Santa Cruz Mountains, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I love toyon.

The rains finally stopped just before New Year's. The time had come for me to search my mountain for the perfect candidate to fill The Vase. It came as a Christmas gift from my stepdaughter who was inspired by our garden renovation last summer. Flowers and vegetables had grown fat, sprawled and climbed beyond my wildest imagination. But garden flowers to fill a grand vase were lacking at this time of year. Toyon, which also calls my mountain its home, seemed to be the perfect answer.

My search for it taught me a thing or two about toyon. Every day I had passed through tunnels of it on my journeys up and down our winding mountain road. It was at the peak of its glory. Bright red berries seemed to be dangling everywhere. And that was the problem. Toyon seems to have an affinity for growing to magnificent heights on slopes that define the word perpendicular. Armed with pruning shears, I cruised the mountain looking for some gorgeous, accessible toyon to judiciously prune. Gorgeous they were; accessible they were not.

My search was confined to the roadside where, in the spring, road crews cut back the brush that tries to reclaim the pavement that was once its own. I don't stray past it into territory that belongs only to the mountain.

I climbed the road to the top of the ridge, my prize still eluding me. I couldn't remember much toyon up there, but maybe I just hadn't been paying attention. They were there indeed, but on the wind swept ridge the toyon looked like Cinderella in ashes. Their leaves were tattered, their berries were sparse, and the whole attitude of each shrub told you survival, not beauty, took precedence.

Finally, by our mailbox, I came across one that had been guarded on the windward side by coyote brush and elderberry. A few low branches were dotted with berries, some red and some still green. My dream of an armful of foliage studded with brilliant berries merged into the reality of a single picturesque branch lying on the car seat beside me. I took it home to meet its vase.

The introduction of shaggy toyon and sensuously elegant vase became a match made in heaven. This exquisite couple needed an appropriate home.

I considered the mantle, but the diminutive size of our living room made me look elsewhere. What would be suitable? It became clear; the shelf under the window in the kitchen that looked out to the garden and the valley beyond was perfect. This had been home for last year's beautiful gift platter, sometimes loaded with fresh produce from the garden. But the platter would be elegant standing on edge at the back of a freshly painted kitchen shelf while it waited for next year's harvest.

About 4 o'clock that afternoon the rays of the setting sun through the window caught the curve of the vase. On New Year's Eve a dinner with friends in this room, which serves as both kitchen and dining room, bathed sophisticated vase embracing tempestous toyon with the soft glow of candlelight. They will look elegant by the light of the lantern hanging above the sink the next time the lights go out--which they will.

The toyon has found its mate.

Positive csm73 On Nov 15, 2004, csm73 from Santa Rosa, CA wrote:

I live in Oak Woodlands and am returning my soil to its natural state clay/rock(volcanic) and the natural soil fungi ae doing well. The toyon volunteered from seeds dropped by birds and deer. Call it a free packet of fertilizer with each seed. Each spring 3 or 4 new seedlings start up in 1/3 acre. As few neighbors have toyon (it is a bit straggly) I figure the seedlings come from my seeds - a success ratio of oh 1 in 3000. Several dozen softball sized clusters of bright red pea-sized berries form on each mature plant. Good contrast with dark evergreen leaves (which deer nibble on). Late winter ONE flock of migrating little birds will eliminate all of them each year.


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

Aptos, California
Arroyo Grande, California
Canoga Park, California
Chico, California
Davis, California
Kelseyville, California
Los Angeles, California
Malibu, California
Martinez, California
North Fork, California
Oak View, California
Paradise, California
Redwood City, California
Sacramento, California
San Diego, California
San Gabriel, California
Santa Cruz, California
Saratoga, California (2 reports)
Vista, California
Yorba Linda, California
Portland, Oregon

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