Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Ilex Cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Ilex cornuta 'Autumn Fire' (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 4m

Eventual Spread: 5m

Hardiness: 6a – 9b

Family: Aquifoliaceae

Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ is a slow growing evergreen shrub. Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ is a female variety of Holly and as such requires a male to pollinate it to produce berries. Its dark green glossy leaves are elliptical with entire margins, five spined, up to 7cm long. Its bark is smooth and gray. Its fragrant white flowers are four petaled and up to 8mm across. Its flowers are dioecious, therefore male and female plants need to be present for a female to produce berries. Its fruit are red rounded drupes, up to 12mm across. Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ produces its berries earlier than the species and these persist on the shrub throughout the winter months.

Ilex cornuta 'Autumn Fire' Leaf (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ Leaf (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

The species Ilex cornuta, commonly known as Chinese Holly or Horned Holly, is native to eastern China and Korea.

The etymological root of the binomial name Ilex is derived from the old Latin name for the Holly. Cornuta is derived from the Latin corni meaning ‘horned’, in reference to the shape of its leaves.

The landscape architect may find Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ useful as an attractive evergreen shrub, particularly for shady locations. It may be maintained as an effective impenetrable hedge. Once established it is drought tolerant. This shrub is not attractive to deer or rabbits.

Ecologically, Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ flowers are attractive to pollinating insects. Its fruit are attractive to some bird species.

Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Ilex cornuta 'Autumn Fire' Berry (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ Berry (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ilex cornuta ‘Autumn Fire’ requires little maintenance. If maintaining as a hedge it should be cut in late autumn to early spring. If necessary it may also be cut in mid summer, but winter berries may be lost.

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