Content Detail

The Merserve hollies are hybrids that do well in northern climates like the Chicago region. Dark, lustrous blue-green leaves are evergreen and spiny. Like all hollies, there are separate male and female plants and both must be planted for the female plant to produce the showy fruit.

  • Family (English) Holly
  • Family (botanic) Aquifoliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow

Shape and Form:

Growing 8 to 15 feet high, but size varies by cultivar. They have a rounded to upright form.

Native geographic location and habitat:

This shrub is a hybrid plant derived from crosses between Ilex rugosa (Prostate Holly) and Ilex aquifolium (English Holly) and crosses between Ilex cornuta (Chinese holly) and Ilex rugosa.

Bark color and texture:

Its bark is green and turns brown with age.

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

Leaves are simple, alternate, evergreen leaves that grow 1 to 2 inches long with spines along the margin. Foliage is evergreen, so it has no fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are inconspicuous so male and female flowers on separate plants. Male must be planted near females so the females will be pollinated and set fruit.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Red berry-like fruit (drupes) grow on female plants only and they persist into winter.

Plant care:

Meserve holly grows best in shady, moist, extremely well-drained acid soil. Avoid planting in overly wet sites. Winter drying of the evergreen foliage causes dieback and browning of leaves, especially in open exposed sites. Water well in fall before soil freezes. An anti-desiccant spray may help to reduce water loss from the evergreen leaves during winter months.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

This shrub has no serious pests, but winter leaf desiccation is a potential problem. Chlorosis can be a problem in high pH soils.

Blue Girl holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Girl’): 

This is a female cultivar that grows 6 to 8 feet high in a pyramidal form. ‘Blue Boy’ is male pollinator. (Note: Berri-Magic®Kids Holly is ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl’ planted in the same container; only one container is needed to ensure pollination and fruit production.)

Blue Boy holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Boy’): 

This is the male cultivar growing 6 to 8 feet high and is non fruiting. It is the male pollinator for ‘Blue Girl’ Holly. (Note: Berri-Magic®Kids Holly is ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl’ planted in the same container; only one container is needed to ensure pollination and fruit production.)

Blue Princess® holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Princess’): 

This female cultivar grows 8  to 10 feet high. Its fruit production is heavier than other cultivars. ‘Blue Prince’ is male pollinator. (Note: Berry Magic® Royalty Holly and ‘Royal Family’ are both ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’ planted in the same container; only one container is needed to ensure pollination and fruit production.)

Blue Prince® holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Prince’):

This male cultivar grows 6 to 8 feet high and maintains good leaf color in winter. It is a pollinator for ‘Blue Princess’. (Note: Berry Magic® Royalty Holly and ‘Royal Family’ are both ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’ planted in the same container; only one container is needed to ensure pollination and fruit production.)

Emerald Magic® holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘WillEmer’):

This male cultivar grows 3 to 4 feet high. It is a broadleaf evergreen shrub with dense foliage, which takes on a burgundy tinge in winter.

Hybrids related to the Meserve hybrids:

China Boy® holly (Ilex x ‘Mesdob’):

 This male hybrid grows 3 to 5 feet high and wide.  It is more cold-hardy than Blue Prince. It is the pollinator for China Girl® Holly. (Note: Berry Magic® China Holly is  China Boy® and China Girl® planted in the same container; only one container is needed to ensure pollination and fruit production.)

China Girl® holly (Ilex x ‘Mesog’):

This female cultivar grows 5 to 6 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. It uses ‘China Boy’as male pollinator. (Note: Berry Magic® China Holly is China Boy® and China Girl® planted in the same container; only one container is needed to ensure pollination and fruit production.)

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