image Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii'
above – ‘Burfordii’

Ilex cornuta | Chinese Holly
Evergreen. Robust leaved Holly. Very adaptable and distinguished shrub. Makes an impenitrable hedge to protect you against unfriendly neighbors. It’s really not a plant I have any affection for but I can see it’s utility. I much prefer the native American Holly Ilex opaca. But, many people love Chinese Hollies. There are at least 100 (probably more) cultivars. ‘Burfordii’ has a nice shape and simpler leaves than some. ‘O. Spring’, with tri-colored leaves is actually quite lovely in the right setting.

My bad attitude about hollies comes from the fact that many outgrow their homes and overwhelm and sometimes obliterate whatever is close by. Often planted as screens in tight spaces, when a much less burly plant would be better. Once overgrown, it is a project to remove them. They can be very nice when treated as small trees, given space and allowed to take on a more natural state. I like hollies pruned up as well to expose the branching. Also, the shinier the leaf, the more fake they look to me.  Therefore I’m not a fan of Ilex cornuta.  Of large leaved hollies, my favorite is the native Ilex opaca. I do not have a bad attitude about small leaved hollies, on the contrary. Ilex crenata or Ilex vomitoria are fabulous.
image Ilex cornuta

Transfer B&B if root trimmed. Heat and drought tolerant. Prune to shape in early spring just before new growth begins. Needs minimal pruning as a hedge, but may be sheared regularly to neaten hedge.
Dioecious, needs male for female to produce berries. Extremely heat and drought tollerant. Occasionally developes a nitrogen deficiency, symptoms are yellow yeaves. Also, sometimes gets scale.
‘Bufordii’ dense rounded/pyramidal up to 20′ high, leaves have only 1 spike
‘Burfordii Nana’ dwarf form, shrub doesn’t berry as heavily
‘O. Spring’ 10′ high mustard yellow, dark and light green leaves

image Ilex cornutaZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE …..
8 – 9 | full sun to part shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 20’ to 40’ (great variation)
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. rounded, dense, multi-stemed
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. sturdy, sharp spine, rounded or rectangular, have a unique shape – the central spine points down, while the next two point up like horns (hence the name cornuta, which means horned). Many Chinese Hollies lack these horns.
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | Glossy dark green
image Ilex cornuta stems
BARK | smooth, gray with size becoming very finely flakey
BERRIES | bright red, showy, appears in fall gives winter interest
FLOWERS | hidden dainty 6 part tiny white flower with yellow center
SOIL grows in wet to medium wet. Can tolerate drought, though. Adaptable to light and heavy clay.
Native to east Asia

Floridata | Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’
VA Tech Dendrology | Ilex cornuta
Duke | Ilex cornuta

image Ilex cornuta 'O. Spring' leaves
image Ilex cornuta 'O. Spring'