Ilex × meserveae BLUE PRINCESS

Common Name: blue holly 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Zone: 4 to 7
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest, Thorns
Tolerate: Air Pollution


Easily grown in average, slightly acidic, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Part afternoon shade is best in hot summer climates. Best sited in locations protected from cold winter winds. Hollies are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Plant one male for every 3 to 5 female plants.

BLUE PRINCESS is a female clone that produces showy fruit when flowers are pollinated. It needs a male pollinator such as Ilex x meserveae BLUE PRINCE. Plant one male for every 3 to 5 female plants. This holly may not be reliably winter hardy throughout USDA Zone 5 where it should be sited in a sheltered location and given winter protection.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ilex × meserveae, commonly known as Meserve holly or blue holly, is an evergreen hybrid holly that typically grows to 6-8’ tall, but occasionally to as much as 15’ tall. In the 1950s, Kathleen K. Meserve of St. James, New York made crosses between I. aquifolium (English holly - winter hardy to Zone 7) and I. rugosa (Tsuru holly - winter hardy to Zone 3) for purposes of creating an English-style hybrid that would have sufficient hardiness to survive the harsh winters of the northeastern U.S. Her efforts resulted in the creation and introduction of a number of hybrids, known today as the Meserve hollies, but which are also often called blue hollies because most have the word blue in the trade name or cultivar name in reference to foliage color. Distinguishing features of these bushy evergreen hybrids are (a) average height to 6-7’ tall, (b) glossy blue green leaves with prominent spiny margins, (c) purple stems, (d) greenish-white flowers in small clusters in May, (e) showy bright red berries on female plants in fall, often persisting until spring, and (f) excellent winter hardiness to USDA Zone 5.

Subsequent to the original Meserve hybrids, some additional hybrids having slightly different parentage have been introduced into commerce as blue hollies.

Genus name comes from the Latin name Quercus ilex for holm oak in reference to the foliage similarities (holm oak and many of the shrubs in the genus Ilex have evergreen leaves).

The hybrid name meserveae honors Kathleen K. Meserve (1906-1999) who developed the original Meserve holly hybrids.

BLUE PRINCESS is a female Meserve holly that typically matures to 8-12’ tall. It is a dense shrub featuring purplish stems and dark blue-green leaves with spiny-toothed margins. Tiny greenish-white flowers on this plant are relatively inconspicuous. Fertilized female flowers give way to abundant, dark red fruit which typically persists through most if not all of winter. U.S. Plant Patent PP3,675 was issued on January 7, 1975.


Potential insect problems include holly leaf miner, spider mites, whitefly and scale. Potential disease problems include leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot and powdery mildew. Plants are also susceptible to leaf drop, leaf scorch and chlorosis (yellowing of leaves in high pH soils).


Borders, screens, hedges, foundations. Glossy evergreen foliage (male and female plants) plus contrasting red berries (female plants) provide excellent winter interest.