Sky Pencil Holly; how fast do they grow?

mrsfox(6)March 5, 2014


I have done a ton of research for a shrub/tree that will stay very narrow (2 feet max) and get at least 8' tall in full sun AND be evergreen. The plant I keep coming back to is Sky Pencil Holly. I want to make a hedge of them for privacy in my front yard (see picture below). I would like to know if anyone has had experience with them and can give me an idea of how fast they grow (inches/year) and what (if anything) I can do to make them grow faster (lots of water, fertilizer?). Are they a 'thirsty' plant? I live in a very dry climate, so I need to know how much water they need as I will have to provide it.

Also...I am going to need a lot of individual plants for this hedge; probably 18-20 spaced 2.5 feet apart. Does anyone have an online nursery to recommend with good prices, or should I just scope out my local nurseries when they open? I am trying to decide if I should splurge and buy bigger plants, or save some money and buy small if they are going to grow fairly fast.

Thanks for the advice in advance!

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At what time of the year and what hour of the day was the photo taken? That fence casts a mighty long shadow!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 1:47PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

" fast they grow..."

As with any other plant, conditions greatly influence how fast a plant will grow. Here in TN, and with good soil and plenty of water, mine grew at almost 10" per year until it got around 8'. It seems to have slowed down a lot after that.

"...what (if anything) I can do to make them grow faster (lots of water, fertilizer?)"

Providing sufficient water and fertilizer, if these are missing, would encourage better potential growth. However, too much of a good thing is often bad and can lead to unhealthy plants. A lanky sky pencil holly might just flop over and turn into a splayed out weeping holly.

"...I need to know how much water they need as I will have to provide it."

The amount of water they need will depend on the circumstances. You need to test your soil down at root level to find out how your soil drains. Your hollies will appreciate always having a little moisture down at root level, but the soil's surface should be allowed to begin drying in between waterings. Longer (deeper), less frequent watering is much better than shorter (quick), frequent watering.

There's a popular description that applies to many plants..."likes light, well-drained, moist soil" (basically these plants appreciate ideal conditions, even though they don't require these conditions to survive).

"...should I just scope out my local nurseries when they open?"

For these, I'd definitely try to source locally. It would save you a bundle in shipping and allow you to hand select the best plants. These are very common around here and can be found at many of the big-box type stores.

"...I am trying to decide if I should splurge and buy bigger plants, or save some money and buy small if they are going to grow fairly fast."

...or you could go somewhere in the middle and settle for a little instant gratification tempered with a little cost savings, ease of planting, and less transplant shock. Really big stock will probably not grow much for quite a while and is much more likely to suffer from transplant shock and/or a poorly formed root system. Smaller plants can hit the ground running (or suffer less transplant shock), but will also be little for a while. You really have to figure out what's more important to you. And, if you decide on larger stock, be prepared for a lot more work to start with (including possibly addressing major root system problems during planting).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:33PM
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This photo was taken last September (almost October) at about 6pm. The fence starts out 6 feet tall near the house, but further into the yard it drops to a 2 foot fence.

Thanks a lot for your input! I am not sure how common these are at box stores in Oregon; I don't see them listed on the Home Depot website. Should I ask them if they can get some in with their spring shipment? Thanks again, you answered every question!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 2:53AM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Visit a reputable larger nursery and talk to someone who knows your climate zone and circumstances. Are you in zone 6?

If you are willing to do some shearing AND if it's hardy in your region, AND if you have no deer problems, you might consider Euonymus 'Greenspire'.

All the Ilex 'Sky Pencil's I've seen have been rather skimpy looking. Not what I would use for a 'hedge'. Often they are used to flank a front door or used as a single specimen in a very narrow space.

I would think there must be a better choice for a hedge. But in most cases you will likely need to do some shearing, whatever your choice.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:23AM
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You are going to run into the problem of spacing. If you plant them close enough to meet and make a privacy screen, they are so close that the roots are overcrowded, so their growth is skimpy and stunted.

I don't see what you need privacy from ... can you show more views of the problem area? Maybe one or two larger evergreens in the right spot can do the trick.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Yes, I am in zone 6. What is the advantage of Euonymus Greenspire over Sky Pencil Holly? How much shearing is involved? I kind of want to plant, water and forget. I don't want a lot of maintenance...


I have a row of Emerald Green Arborvitae planted in the back yard at 3 feet apart and I never thought about the crowding issue; they seem to grow fine that way all around town, so is it a problem for other plants and not arbs? Here are some photos of the front yard from other angles and one of the arbs in the back. I can't plant arbs in the front because the space is much narrower and the deer would feast on them. If there is a tree I could plant and cut off the lower branches to the top of the fence, I might do that, so that only the trunk width is a concern in the mulch bed. I really just want more privacy from the very close adjacent neighbors, they like to stare and I feel like I'm in a zoo on display every time I go outside (front or back). Oh, and the grass is patchy because I grew it from seed still needs to fill in.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 12:16AM
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Just a bit of FYI. Younger plants, like younger people, grow at a faster rate than do older ones. This is probably why Brandon's plants slowed in growth after they reached a certain maturity. And, like people as well, younger plants will adapt more easily to new conditions than will older ones.
Another thought-why don't you go for something that will give you some color and/or fragrance? "Sky Pencil' is a great plant but a hedge of them? BORING.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 12:26AM
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Do you have any ideas as to what would make a more interesting privacy screen? I am open to suggestions! It just has to fit in that mulch bed because I cannot make the bed any wider (underground sprinklers).

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 1:08AM
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