Botanical name: Ilex crenata
Evergreen or deciduous, the Ilex genus belongs to the Aquifoliales family, which has over four hundred species. Native to Japan, China, and Korea, the Ilex crenata (also known as Japanese holly) is an evergreen specimen with glossy alternate dark-green leaves. It produces small white flowers and black drupe fruits. Its small, dense, spiny foliage makes the Ilex crenata a desirable material for bonsai enthusiasts.
Commonly displayed in formal and informal upright or broom styles, is worth mentioning that Japanese holly can be trained in most bonsai styles.
Location and Position
This plant can be kept outdoors all year round, with full sun exposition in the spring and semi-shade in the summer. It’s naturally a very sturdy tree, but if placed in a pot, it will benefit from a little protection, such as being placed under a bench when the temperatures drop below zero.
Ilex crenata appreciates moist soil. Don’t let the soil dry out or become soaking wet for long periods of time, or the tree will suffer and eventually die.
Feed Japanese holly with liquid fertiliser every two weeks during the growing season and feed once with solid slow-release pellets in the fall.
Pruning and Pinching
During the growing season, allow the new shoots to elongate, and then pinch them back to two or three leaves. Structural pruning is best carried out from early summer to mid-fall.
Repotting and Soil
Repot every two years or when the roots fill the pot. Repot in the spring with a well-drained soil mix, such as one part Akadama and one part Pumice
Ilex crenata’s branches are very brittle, which means that wiring requires close attention so you don’t snap them. I prefer to wire in the mid-summer to fall.