Sky Pencil Holly

Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'

Family: Holly

Type: Shrub

Other Common Name: Boxleaf Holly

Sky Pencil Holly, scientifically known as Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’, is a unique and striking evergreen shrub. It is renowned for its narrow, columnar shape and upright growth habit.

This plant’s dark green, glossy leaves and its ability to maintain a slim profile without pruning make it a popular choice for formal gardens and narrow spaces. It’s an excellent choice for adding vertical interest to any landscape.

Sky Pencil Holly thrives in full sun to partial shade and is hardy in zones 6-8. It’s adaptable to various soil types but prefers well-draining, acidic soil.

Needs & Preferences

Hardiness Zone: 6a-6a

Pet Friendly: Yes

Moisture Preference: Average to moist

Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade


Growth Rate: Slow

Average Height (feet): 8

Average Spread (feet): 2

Average Life Span (years): 40

Form: Columnar


Foliage Color: Green

Foliage Shape: Oval

Bark Color: Gray

Bark Texture: Smooth

Landscaping Your Yard With Sky Pencil Holly

Incorporating Sky Pencil Holly into your landscape design offers a unique and modern touch. Its vertical growth and sleek form can be used to create a strong architectural element in gardens.

This plant is ideal for creating privacy screens, framing entryways, or as a container specimen. Its narrow growth makes it perfect for small gardens or tight spaces where other shrubs may be too bulky.

Despite its sophisticated appearance, Sky Pencil Holly is low maintenance. It’s a fantastic choice for gardeners looking for an ornamental plant that requires minimal pruning.


Suitable Garden Styles

Formal Garden

In a formal garden, Sky Pencil Holly can be used to create symmetrical designs or as a focal point. Its upright habit and evergreen foliage lend well to structured garden layouts.

Contemporary Garden

For contemporary gardens, this plant's modern and minimalistic look is ideal. It fits seamlessly into sleek, modern landscapes.

Japanese Garden

In a Japanese garden, Sky Pencil Holly adds height and greenery without overwhelming the space. Its form complements the aesthetic of simplicity and natural beauty.

Sky Pencil Holly Landscaping Ideas

Use it to line walkways or driveways. Its upright growth provides a neat, uncluttered look that enhances pathways.

Plant it in containers on patios or balconies. Sky Pencil Holly adapts well to container life, bringing vertical interest to urban outdoor spaces.

Group it with low-growing shrubs and perennials. Its tall, slim profile creates a striking contrast in mixed plantings.

Seasonal Interest


In spring, Sky Pencil Holly starts to put on new growth. The fresh green leaves add vibrancy to the garden.


During summer, the plant maintains its sleek appearance. Its dense foliage provides a lush, green backdrop in the landscape.


In the fall, Sky Pencil Holly continues to display its evergreen beauty. The plant remains unchanged, offering consistent structure in the garden.


In winter, Sky Pencil Holly stands out with its evergreen leaves. Its resistance to winter burn makes it a valuable addition to the cold-season landscape.

Planting Tips

Where to Plant

Sky Pencil Holly should be planted in an area with full sun to partial shade. It’s ideal for narrow spaces, framing entryways, or in garden beds where its vertical growth can be appreciated.


This plant prefers full sun to partial shade. While it tolerates a range of light conditions, sufficient sunlight is essential for healthy growth and foliage density.


Sky Pencil Holly thrives in well-draining, acidic soil. It's adaptable to various soil types but prefers a pH that leans towards the acidic side.


Space Sky Pencil Holly plants about 2 to 3 feet apart. This allows each plant enough room to grow while maintaining its slender form.

When to Plant

The best time to plant Sky Pencil Holly is in the spring or early fall. Cooler temperatures during these periods are ideal for root establishment.

How to Plant

Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole, backfill with soil, and water thoroughly. Ensure the plant is level with the surrounding ground.

Plant Care Tips


Regular watering is important, especially during the first year after planting. Once established, Sky Pencil Holly is relatively drought-tolerant.


Fertilize in early spring with an acid-forming fertilizer to encourage vibrant growth and maintain soil acidity.


Minimal pruning is needed. If desired, prune in late winter or early spring to shape the plant or control its size.

By Season


Spring Care

In spring, apply a fresh layer of mulch and start regular watering and fertilizing as new growth appears.

Summer Care

Continue watering during dry periods in summer. Monitor for pests and diseases, treating as necessary.

Fall Care

Reduce watering as the plant prepares for dormancy. Clean up any fallen leaves around the plant.

Winter Care

Sky Pencil Holly is hardy in winter. Protect the roots with mulch, especially in colder regions.


How Tall and Wide Does Sky Pencil Holly Grow?

Sky Pencil Holly typically reaches about 6-8 feet in height and 2-3 feet in width, maintaining a narrow, columnar shape.

Is Sky Pencil Holly Deer Resistant?

Sky Pencil Holly is moderately deer resistant. While not completely immune to deer browsing, it’s less likely to be damaged compared to other plants.

Can Sky Pencil Holly Be Planted in a Container?

Yes, Sky Pencil Holly is well-suited for container planting due to its compact growth habit. It’s ideal for adding vertical interest to patios, decks, or balconies.

Products That Feature This Plant

Shades of Evergreen

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