Plant Spotlight: Ilex x meserveae

What It Is

Commonly called blue holly, Ilex x meserveae is a group of hybrid hollies originally bred by Kathleen Meserve of New York after World War II to feature showy foliage and berries while maintaining cold-hardiness for Northeast winters. Size varies depending on variety, but generally ranges between 6’-12’ high and wide.

Why to Grow It

When most of the landscape is dull and dormant in the winter, Ilex x meserveae puts on a show with its glossy leaves and clusters of red berries. The berries provide winter food for birds, adding to the interest.

Where to Put It

Ilex x meserveae needs full sun to part shade to thrive. It will mature to a large shrub, so take advantage of its evergreen foliage and showy berries to screen a boring wall or fence. It also works well as an evergreen hedge. Ilex x meserveae requires a medium amount of water and will need artificial irrigation in the Spokane/Coeur D’Alene climate during the summer.

Like all hollies, a male and female plant are each necessary for the female plant to produce berries. One male plant can pollinate several female plants, but it’s important to ensure that the varieties flower at the same time. Most cultivars, however, come with a male and female form that have been bred so that their bloom times align. The Berri-Magic line even includes a male and female plant in each container to ensure berry production.

Glossy evergreen leaves and red berries make this holly a winter showpiece.

Glossy evergreen leaves and red berries make this holly a winter showpiece.