Content Detail

Inkberry holly is a colony-forming, east coast native shrub. It prefers low, wet sites and acidic soils. It can be used as a foundation planting, hedge, or en masse. The flowers are not showy, but the black fruits can be seen well into winter. Hollies have separate male and female plants, requiring a male plant to pollinate the female plant in order to produce fruits.

  • Family (English) Holly
  • Family (botanic) Aquifoliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and Form: 

Inkberry is a 6 to 8 feet high and wide, thicket forming shrub. It has a rounded form.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

This shrub is native to the southeastern and eastern coastal areas of the United States.

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is gray and relatively smooth when young, but dotted with warty lenticels. The bark becomes more blocky in appearance as it ages.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

The simple, alternate, leaves are 1 to 2 inches long with margins which are mostly entire. There are some teeth near the tip of the leaf. Dark green in summer, it may become tinged with purple or bronze in winter. While evergreen in other regions, it is deciduous in the Midwest.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The flowers are inconspicuous. The male and female flowers are on separate plants. Male plants will be needed to pollinate females so fruit can be produced.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The black berrylike fruit (drupes) are only on female plants. They persist through the entire winter.

Plant care: 

Inkberry does best in moist to wet sites with acidic soil. It will tolerate higher pH if organic matter is added to the soil. Although salt tolerant, it does not tolerate dry soil. Mulch to help maintain a cool root environment. It spreads by underground stolons so removal of suckers may be needed to control the width of the shrub. Renewal pruning is suggested to keep the plant in the best shape possible.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Inkberry has no serious pests. Winter burn of the evergreen leaves can occur in open, windy sites. It is deciduous in the Midwest

Compacta inkberry  (Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’): 

This cultivar is more compact than the species, growing only 4 to 6 feet high. It is a female cultivar, so it will produce black fruits if a male pollinator is provided. It has dark green leaves and is fine textured.

Nordic™ inkberry (Ilex glabra ‘Chamzin’): 

Another compact cultivar, growing only 3 to 4 feet high, making it appropriate for smaller yards. It has a rounded form and dense growth that produces fewer suckers than the species. It is a male cultivar, so no fruit will be produced, but it can serve as a pollinator for ‘Compacta’.


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