The Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ (Sky Pencil Japanese Holly) Full Care Guide


The Sky Pencil Japanese Holly, otherwise known as the Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ or Japanese Holly ‘Sky Pencil’, Sky Pencil Japanese Holly, Boxleaf Holly ‘Sky Pencil’, Box-leaved Holly ‘Sky Pencil’, Fastigiata Group, is a rather well known shrub plant by gardening enthusiasts around the world.

Best known for its low maintenance and moderate growth, this shrub will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its dark green colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

Fortunately, this is exactly what we’ll cover in this Sky Pencil Japanese Holly Care Guide. So let’s dive in.

The basic care guidelines you need to remember for your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly are the following:

  • Water: The Sky Pencil Japanese Holly prefers constant watering each week and more during the hot season.
  • Light: Keep your Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ in an environment where it can receive full sun on a daily basis. 
  • Soil: Make sure to keep the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly in soil with moist but well-draining to well draining properties, so ideally, one that is made of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

That’s it – sunlight, water and soil! The basic 3 fundamentals for all plant care, and with the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly this is no exception. With these three elements, your leafy friend will live healthy and happy.

Sky Pencil Japanese Holly with green fruits

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly belongs to the Aquifoliaceae family, the genus Ilex and the species Crenata, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ (EYE-leks kre-NAY-tuh).

As with other Ilex’s, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly is an evergreen plant, which means it will be present year round in your garden.

Growing Region

You might be wondering why your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly’s native region is important. Well, if you know where your plant originally came from, you’ll know which environment conditions it prefers, and with it, knowledge on how to replicate it at home.

With this in mind, the Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ will be most used to the heat zones in the 5 – 7 region, and in climate zones that range between 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.

Growth and Size

Growth

In terms of size and growth, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.

Size

But, what size of Sky Pencil Japanese Holly are we talking about? What can you expect in terms of height, spread and spacing? Let’s dig in…

The Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ can grow up to 6′ – 10′ (180cm – 3m) in 6′ – 10′ (180cm – 3m) and 1′ – 3′ (30cm – 90cm) in 1′ – 3′ (30cm – 90cm). 

These dimensions make the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly a relatively medium shrub compared to others, so it’s best to keep this fact in mind since it will affect where you want to keep yours at home.

Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful compact, columnar, and narrow shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.

This is why experts recommend keeping an area of approximately 36″ (90cm) free so the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly can spread to its best extent.

Water

In terms of watering, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly is a fairly simple plant to take care of.

This is mostly because it has a straightforward watering schedule and somewhat regular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ prefers constant watering each week and more during the hot season.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

Sky Pencil Japanese Holly with black fruits

Watering

As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly in soil with moist but well-draining to well draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

However, in our experience, the best solution to knowing the right amount of water for your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly is with the ‘thumb’ technique. Basically, you insert your finger into the soil, and based if you feel the soil moist or dry, you determine if it needs any water, which is the most appropriate way to go about watering your leafy friend.

Soil Mix

The Sky Pencil Japanese Holly’s ideal soil potting mix is made out of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

This is why most experts agree that the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly requires soil with clay, loam (silt), and sand, which will give you the right conditions it needs.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably alkaline, acid or neutral soil.

Light and Exposure

In terms of light & exposure, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly requires full sun in order for it to thrive under the right conditions. 

Most experts agree that this shrub will do well as long as you keep it in partial to full sun, and it will be able to grow properly.

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ in 

Season

Being an evergreen plant, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly will be present year round in your garden.

But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the spring (early, mid, late), the summer (early, mid, late), the fall, and during the winter.

Foliage

The leaves from the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly have a beautiful dark green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a alternate organization in its leaves.

You can expect the leaves from your Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ to be around (< 1 inch) in size.

Sky Pencil Japanese Holly with red fruits

Attracts, Tolerance and Resistance

The Sky Pencil Japanese Holly is well known for its tolerance to drought and animals like deer, so don’t worry if any of these come along, your Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ will be fine.

Garden

Now, let’s talk garden and how your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly will look best in it.

Most Ilex Crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ owners agree that this shrub will look great in most asian/zen and contemporary gardens of all types. 

Other owners consider that they complement well most gardens of city and courtyard, and in informal and cottage styles. 

In particular, the Sky Pencil Japanese Holly’s best location within your garden is in hedges and screens, small gardens, beds and borders, patio and containers, and in wall-side borders, others use it for landscaping in a mass planting, border, specimen, container, privacy screen, or a urban garden.

Companion Plants

Sky Pencil Japanese Holly’s do well with some other plants beside it. One good companion plant is the Paeonia, which will pair up nicely with your leafy friend.

Others consider that a nice Azalea will work well too, so choose whichever you find works best for you!

Conclusion

Even though we covered a lot of care information for your Sky Pencil Japanese Holly, remember the basics: sunlight, soil and water, as these should be enough to grow a healthy plant at home.

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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