Quercus ilex var. oleifolia

Quercus ilex
Quercus ilex var. oleifolia
holm oak, holly oak
SIZE/TYPE medium-sized tree
LEAVES evergreen broadleaf
COLOUR OF LEAVES +multicoloured:green and silver
LOCATION full to partial sun
SOIL TYPE any (acidic to alkaline)
SOIL MOISTURE REQUIREMENTS evenly moist (dislikes drought)
USDA zone (lowest) 6   (down to -23°C)
FOR ZONE 5+6 Code of winter protection zone 5+6
FOR ZONE 7 Code of winter protection zone 7
BELONGS TO CATEGORIES Evergreen broadleaf
náhled fotonáhled fotonáhled foto
Holm oak or holly oak (holm is an old word for holly) is native to the Mediterranean and is spread from southern parts of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, to west Balkan and milder parts of North Africa. It used to form vast areas of evergreen forests most of which are chopped down today. It was first described in 1753 and many sources until this day claim it is not drought tolerant. In fact it very drought tolerant once established which why it is commonly cultivated in heat-accumulated and paved city squares. In the wild it grows in altitudes from 0 to 1400 m above sea level.

Holm oak is a natural species, not a hybrid in spite of two specific names in its Latin title. Oleifolia is one of its few selections made in order to describe distinctly different seedlings. Its evergreen, leathery leaves strongly resemble olive tree leaves - they are 3-6 cm long, elongated, spineless, and slightly undulated. They emerge soft green and mature to very dark green and glossy on the upper side, and delicately hairy and almost silver on the reverse. Older trees produce small, elongated, dark brown, glossy acorns.

Young plants are fast growers making some 30 cm to one meter per year. They grow upright when young, slowing down with age and size, forming handsome bushy crowns, initially oval-shaped, later mushroom-like which looks best cultivated as a standard tree with a trunk. Older trees are very beautiful and cast a deep shade desired in hot summers. Shrubs are used as long-lived hedges and windbreaks.

We began testing this plant after 2010. Young plant with soft wood had no chance to survive the first winter outside, but trees with older and woody trunks and branches showed surprising hardiness in Czech winters (USDA zone 6). The most beautiful tree is in my garden in Chlumec since 2013, it is oleifolia variety, and has coped all zone 6 winters and late winter temperature swings without any notable damage.

Holm oak is not too picky about soil type provided it is well drained. It can even take less fertile soil. Never plant it in heavy clay and water-logged sites where its roots may rot. Even moisture is needed in the first season after transplanting, then it will do with occasional rain. It loves sun and warmth, never plant it in exposed areas of zones 6 borderline. For cultivation in Central European conditions always look for plant with hardened wood which is not prone to frost damage. Pruning is possible in early spring. Hardiness trialed and proved down to -24°C (USDA zone 6).

Last update 04-02-2018

Quercus ilex
Phillyrea latifolia
Phillyrea latifolia
  • STANDARD QUALITY - Plants of this group are 1st class quality with number of branches and overall density adequate to their size and age, considering they were container grown.
  • DE LUXE QUALITY - This label guarantees a luxurious quality of manually selected plants that, compared to their height and age, are exceptionally dense and beautiful.
  • EXTRA - These plants are usually mature and bigger specimens with exceptional overall appearance.
  • STANDARD (as described in the plant form) means a tree with a trunk of 190-210 cm and a crown at the top, unless specified differently. The commercial size for trees is their girth measured in the height of 1m from ground.
  • HOBBY - These plants are of the same quality as our standard-quality plants but younger and therefore cheaper.
  • SHRUB - a woody plant with branches growing bushy from the ground level.
  • HALF-STANDARD or MINI-STANDARD - a small tree with shorter trunk, its size is usually specified.
  • FEATHERED - These are trees with branches growing already from the base of the trunk and up along the stem.
  • GRASSES and PERENNIALS - Sizes given usually read the diameter of the pot or the clump, as specified.
LARGE PLANTS over 150 cmspecimens, screening and hedging shrubs

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