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Ilex latifolia: Lusterleaf Holly1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson 2


This broad-leaved, evergreen tree can reach 40 feet in height with a 20 to 25-foot spread but is usually seen at half that size. The six-inch-long, glossy dark green, leathery leaves have serrate margins and are unusually coarse-textured and large for a Holly. The 0.25-inch-thick, newly emerging green shoots add to the coarseness of this attractive tree. New shoots droop under the weight of the emerging leaves creating a full-crowned, round or slightly pyramidal canopy. The inconspicuous, yellowish-white spring flowers are followed by a profusion of small, brick red berries (on female plants), appearing in dense clusters, and persisting on the plants throughout the winter. Both male and female plants must be planted to ensure production of the berries.

Figure 1. Young Ilex latifolia: Lusterleaf Holly
Figure 1.  Young Ilex latifolia: Lusterleaf Holly
Credit: Ed Gilman

General Information

Scientific name: Ilex latifolia
Pronunciation: EYE-lecks lat-ih-FOLE-ee-uh
Common name(s): Lusterleaf Holly
Family: Aquifoliaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 7A through 9B (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; deck or patio; screen; specimen; espalier; hedge; street without sidewalk; tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; highway median; container or planter
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range


Height: 20 to 25 feet
Spread: 15 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: pyramidal, round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate, spiny
Leaf shape: oblong, elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Foliage
Figure 3.  Foliage


Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: red
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thick, very thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: none


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Lusterleaf Holly can be clipped or can grow on its own into a dense screen when located in bright light, but has a more open crown in shade. This makes a nice background plant in a shrub border in a large landscape due to the dark green foliage. Other plants contrast well when planted in front of it. Nurseries can train the plant into a multistemmed specimen or prune it to develop a single trunk for patio or street tree use.

Lusterleaf Holly looks its best if planted in an area receiving less than all-day sun and strong winds. Some shading in the afternoon would be fine. Not for exposed, windy, dry, full-sun areas, this Holly does well in shaded locations. Fertile, well-drained but moisture-retentive soils are best for this handsome evergreen. Plants will require only occasional pruning to maintain form and size and they can be espaliered on a wall or fence quite easily. The bold foliage of Lusterleaf Holly contrasts well with other plants and it is also a striking specimen planting on its own. Clear the inner portions of the branches of foliage and small twigs and light the tree at night from below to create a nice night-time specimen.

The cultivar `Wirt L. Winn' is known for its excellent form and foliage color.

Propagation is difficult. Hardwood cuttings taken in fall and winter sometimes root. Seeds can take several years to germinate. Plants are sometimes grafted onto Ilex opaca seedlings.

Pests and Diseases

There is a caterpillar which occasionally chews holes in the leafs.


1. This document is ENH462, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS webwite at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #ENH462

Release Date:October 2, 2014

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