Itea ilicifolia

Common Name: itea 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Iteaceae
Native Range: Western China
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Greenish-cream
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest


Grow in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in part shade. Prefers moist, humusy soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Intolerant of drought. Appreciates a location sheltered from strong winds. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9, but may survive in Zone 6 if sited in a protected area such as along a south-facing wall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Itea ilicifolia, commonly called holly-leaf sweetspire, is a narrow, upright, evergreen shrub that is native to woodland areas on alpine slopes, thickets, valleys and along streambanks in south central China. It typically matures to 8-12' tall. Elliptic-oblong, glossy, rich green leaves (to 4 1/4" long and 2 1/4" wide) have prominent holly-like marginal spines. Tiny, mildly fragrant, greenish-cream flowers in tightly-packed, catkin-like, drooping racemes (to 8-12" long) bloom in mid-summer (July-August). Ornamentally insignificant seed capsules.

Genus name comes from the Greek word for willow in reference to the similarity of the leaves or flower clusters to those of some willows.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word ilicifolius meaning having leaves resembling those of holly.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Moist areas of the landscape. Espalier against a partly shaded south-facing fence or wall. Informal screen.