Hetz's Japanese Holly

Shrubs That Look Like Boxwood, but Aren't

The Japanese holly called 'Hetzii.' As the photo reveals, this Japanese holly has concave leaves and black berries.
Ilex crenata 'Hetzii' has concave leaves and black berries. David Beaulieu

Taxonomy and Botany of Hetz's Japanese Holly

The taxonomy of Hetz's Japanese holly is Ilex crenata 'Hetzii.' It is a female cultivar. The cultivar name 'Hetzii' is transformed into "Hetz" or "Hetz's" for use in the common plant name.

Hetz's Japanese holly is an evergreen shrub. It is a broadleaved, rather than a needled evergreen.

Characteristics of the Shrub

Ilex crenata 'Hetzii' has an upright habit and grows to be 3-6 feet tall at maturity (with a similar width).

Its growth rate is moderate, and it is easily kept down to within the lower portion of that range with occasional pruning (shearing), if so desired. Not grown for its blossoms (which are small and white), it does nonetheless bloom in May. Flowers are succeeded by black berries (the horticulturally highbrow term is actually "drupes").

Landscape designers like the fact that the relatively small leaves of Ilex crenata shrubs give them a fine texture, allowing for contrast with the coarser textures of many other shrubs. These little green leaves, incidentally, are convex (when viewed from above) and can be quite shiny.

Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Requirements

Deriving from a species indigenous to eastern Asia, Hetz's Japanese holly generally can be grown in planting zones 5-8, although some are skeptical as to the bush's cold-hardiness throughout a zone-5 area. To improve your plant's prospects of enduring a winter in zone 5, apply mulch and/or furnish it with a microclimate, perhaps with the aid of a shrub shelter.

Some gardeners grow the shrub in full sunshine, but Ilex crenata bushes tolerate shade just fine (berry production may be reduced, though). Regardless of the amount of light you give it, try to grow it in ground that drains well (although they are said to be plants that tolerate clayey soil). They prefer a soil pH that is acidic; otherwise, you may experience some yellowing of the leaves.

Uses for Hetz's Japanese Holly in Landscaping

Use these shrubs in foundation plantings where an evergreen is called for. Being amenable to shearing (like boxwood), they are also suitable in hedges.

Plant Care Tips

This is a good plant for low-maintenance landscaping, requiring relatively little care. But if you have your heart set on berries, you will need to grow a male that will pollinate this female. Holly shrubs are dioecious. Consult the FAQ to learn how to tell a male holly shrub from a female.

Since Ilex crenata 'Hetzii' is specifically a female cultivar, you can't just go out and get a male Hetz to complement it. So you will have to use a male of a different type of Ilex crenata. The following are examples of suitable cultivars listed as male:

  • 'Bee Hive'
  • 'Hoogendorn'
  • 'Rotundifolia'

Although pollen can travel some distance, experts recommend planting one of these males close by to improve your chances of pollination.

Outstanding Features

As with other evergreens, this shrub will add visual interest to the winter landscape, especially if the black berries are present.

Unlike Ilex aquifolium, Ilex crenata 'Hetzii' does not bear spines. This is a desirable trait if you are looking for a plant that is comfortable to be around.

For example, you do not want anything with thorns when landscaping around a swimming pool. But this same quality excludes it if, instead, you are contemplating candidates for a security hedge.

How to Distinguish It From Boxwood Shrubs

One's initial interest in this plant sometimes stems from its resemblance to the boxwoods. If you are the type who drives around the neighborhood surveying other people's landscaping out of curiosity, you can become annoyed by your inability to say definitively whether you are spotting a boxwood or a Hetz's Japanese holly.

If that describes you, you may wish to satisfy your curiosity by growing the latter (if you have already grown boxwood), enabling you to experience it up-close and personal on a regular basis and become intimately acquainted with it. You still may not be able to tell the two bushes apart from a distance, though.

For, unfortunately, the two features that allow you to identify Hetz's Japanese holly (in contradistinction to boxwood) with the greatest certainty are not discernible from a distance. They are:

  1. Its serrated leaves
  2. The alternate pattern in which the leaves grow along the branches

A hint regarding the former is contained in the shrub's scientific plant name. Crenata is Latin for "toothed" and refers to the little teeth along the edges of the leaves (which boxwood lacks). And the boxwoods sport opposite, not alternate leaves.

Back to Index for => Holly Shrubs