In The Garden Now….. Holly Leaf Sweetspire

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Holly Leaf Itea

Text and photo by Victoria Gilleland

A friend gave me a start of this plant five years ago. Somehow it got shuffled into an area in the garden I seldom visited. Last year I finally got it planted in a more prominent place and three blossoms graced my plant. Not much of a payoff after all that time yet it was a beginning.

Here we are at year six. Miracle of miracles, 17 fabulous greenish-white 12 inch long catkins appeared on my six foot high plant! I guess there must be some truth to the proverb “Good things come to those who wait”…..and put their plants in appropriate garden locations.

Not only are the catkins unusual looking but they also have a delightful honey scent. Bees love them! The medium evergreen leaves look like holly but are soft and not prickly. The plant grows in an upright form that may reach 4-8 feet wide and 8-10 feet tall. Pruning is best scheduled after flowering.

Holly Leaf Sweetspire makes a great specimen plant, or could be a good choice for the back of a garden bed. Try one espaliered against a shady wall.

If you like plants that are a little out of the ordinary this may be the one for you. The catkins of this plant are truly unique. Add one of these to your garden and you just might be the envy of your fellow gardeners!

Botanical Name: Itea ilicifolia

Victoria Gilleland is the owner of Cottage Garden Designs, a Garden Design company specializing in Redesign of Residential Gardens, Garden Consultation and Coaching. She has been designing gardens in the northwest for over 30 years. (


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