Accent a small Zen garden with "Helleri" dwarf Japanese holly.

How to Landscape With Helleri Holly

by Denise Schoonhoven

If the only holly you know has sharp stickers on its leaves and bright red berries that you have to stop inquisitive kids from popping into their mouths, then you haven't met “Helleri” yet. The small, dark green leaves of “Helleri” holly (Ilex crenata “Helleri”) have ever-so-slightly serrated edges that won't poke little hands. The slow-growing evergreen rarely fruits, so you don't have to worry about tiny tasting temptations. A graceful, low-growing shrub for sunny to partially shaded locations in your yard, “Helleri” holly, also known as dwarf Japanese holly, thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5b through 8.

Highlight the finer architectural features of your home's facade with a foundation planting of “Helleri” holly. Set the dark-green plants 3 to 5 feet apart in a wide bed and surrounded by coarse bark chips to provide an eye-pleasing transition between the lighter green of the lawn and the exterior house color. Slow-growing “Helleri” rarely needs pruning, but over the years may eventually reach up to 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide if it isn't trimmed.

Separate areas of the garden that have different uses with low hedges of “Helleri” holly. Planted 5 to 6 feet apart in a row, the plants create a series of mounds, giving the garden room borders a softly scalloped appearance. Shear the “Helleri” hedge yearly to give give it a tidy, squared-off look in more formal areas of the garden.

Raise the drama in a boring, unused corner of the yard by combining “Helleri” with the gold-green, weeping foliage of “Sungold” Japanese false cypress (Chamaecyperis pisifera “Sungold”), a dwarf evergreen shrub hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7. Add a rich, burgundy color to the arrangement with “Midnight Wine” weigela (Weigela florida “Elvera”), a dwarf deciduous shrub hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8 that bursts out in bright pink blossoms in the summer.

Create a low-maintenance, low-stress Zen garden space for a getaway from your daily demands. Follow the ancient wisdom to keep things simple by incorporating just two types of plants. Use the rounded form and muted color of “Helleri” holly to provide a peaceful place to rest the eyes in quiet contemplation. A stand of evergreen “Sunset Glow” bamboo (Fargesia rufa), hardy in USDA zones 5 though 9, adds soft sounds to the setting as the light green leaves flutter in the wind.

Items you will need

  • Bark chips
  • Pruning shears
  • Drip hose with timer


  • Water “Helleri” holly frequently during the first year after planting so that the roots can become firmly established in the moist soil.
  • “Sunset Glow” is a noninvasive clumping type of bamboo that can be kept appropriately moist with a drip hose attached to a timer.


  • During extended periods with little or no precipitation,“Helleri” holly needs supplemental watering to prevent wilting and duress on the plant.

About the Author

Denise Schoonhoven has worked in the fields of acoustics, biomedical products, electric cable heating and marketing communications. She studied at Newbold College and Middlesex Polytechnic in the UK, and Walla Walla University. A writer since 2008, Schoonhoven is a seasoned business traveler, solo tourist, gardener and home renovator.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images