Inkberry holly, Ilex glabra, is an evergreen shrub with a spreading nature that works well to fill slopes. Inkberry is also a good substitute plant for boxwood. At times, conditions may warrant planting other types of shrubs. You will find facts and information on growing inkberry shrubs and some ways to use them in your yard and garden. Japanese holly is also a good Ilex variety to consider.
Ilex glabra belongs to the holly family, Aquifoliaceae, and is a great deer resistant shrub. It tolerates shade, damp soils, seaside areas, and hard pruning and is easy to plant and grow. It has glossy, deep green, evergreen leaves are up to 2” x 3/4” with a smooth green bark.
Depending on the specific cultivar, berries can be quite showy with white or reddish purple colors that turn black in the fall. They will last until mid-spring and appear up to 1/3” wide. Be sure to check the description of your variety for specific details on your variety. Compact forms are used as foundation plants, while spreading types can be used as ground covers and on slopes and hills.
This plant originated from the swamps of eastern North America and prefers moist, acidic soils. Plant in full sun to partial shade in Zones 5-9. Inkberry needs to be placed where it gets protection from extreme winds and cold temperatures because it has a tendency to burn. Inkberry has a tendency toward being leggy and may occasionally have leaf spot.
Varieties of Inkberry
Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’ is a slow growing evergreen with small, shiny, deep green leaves 1 1/2” x 1/2”. This variety holds its leaves very well and is often used for massed plantings and foundations. It grows 3’-5’ h and w.
Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’ has prolific black berries through winter. It becomes twiggy, good for hedges and shrub borders and is hardier than some cultivars; growing 4’ - 6’ h x 2’ w.
Ilex glabra ‘Densa’- this variety withstands moisture, shade, heat, drought, and severe pruning. It grows 4’-10’ h and w in Zone 4.