Sky Pencil Bushes


I would like to know how to winterize my 4 Sky Pencil Bushes. I live in the Toronto Beach area. Last year I wrapped each one in burlap but when I took of the burlap in the spring 3 out of 4 were dead. All the leaves were brown. Please let me know since I have now planted 3 new ones and I do not want to see the same thing happen to them again this winter. Thank You.


Sky Pencil Bush, or Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ (Japanese Holly) is not reliably hardy for our region even though some of the beach area is rated Zone 7a.

Your plants might have dried out over the winter.

It’s always best to continue watering evergreens until the ground freezes.  Soil should not be dry once winter arrives.

In addition, when wrapping with burlap in the winter, try a double layer of burlap and use stakes to leave a few inches between the burlap and the plants. This is helps to avoid damage from freezing and mold.  Also consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone to protect your Sky Pencil Bushes in the winter. Avoid touching the trunk with the mulch. Create a donut shaped ring of bark mulch around the tree trunk,  where the trunk is in the “donut-hole”.  Allow the mulch to taper down to nothing at the collar.  For winterizing, try a depth of at least 4 inches of mulch, laid down after the ground has frozen. For more on winterizing winter tender plants, see the link provided.

Although it can adapt to a variety of conditions, this plant prefers light, moist rich acidic soils with good drainage.   Sky Pencil Holly also prefers full sun to partial shade to thrive. Take a look at your site conditions and see if your plants are getting enough light. You might also consider a soil test, just to see if the soil is acidic and/or that it is draining sufficiently.

Good luck!