Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly) Profile

Written by Iris

Nov 02 2021

Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly) Profile
Ilex glabra, often known as Inkberry or Gallberry, is a slow-growing, erect, rounded, stoloniferous evergreen broad-leaved shrub in the Holly family. It usually matures to a height of 5-8 feet and can be spread by root suction to form colonies. It is native to coastal plains from Nova Scotia to Florida to Louisiana, where it is most commonly found in sandy forests and outlying swamps and marshes. Spineless, flat, ovate to elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves (up to 1.5 inches long) with smooth edges and a few marginal teeth near the tip. Unless the temperature is well below zero, the leaves usually remain attractive in winter

Ilex glabra Picture

 Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly)

Ilex glabra Info

Botanical Name Ilex glabra
Common Name Inkberry holly, gallberry shrubs
Plant Type Evergreen shrub
Mature Size Five to eight feet in height and spread, although several cultivars have a more compact, smaller form
Sun Exposure  Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Rich, consistently moist, acidic soils
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring

Habits of Ilex glabra

Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Adaptable to both light and heavy soils. Tolerates wet soils. Prefers rich, consistently moist, acidic soils in full sun. Good shade tolerance, however. Avoid neutral to alkaline soils. Inkberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Female plants need a male pollinator in order to produce the berry-like drupes that are characteristic of the species and cultivars. Prune to shape in early spring just before new growth begins. Plants generally need minimal pruning unless used as a hedge (perhaps best grown as an informal hedge). Remove root suckers regularly if colonial spread is not desired.
Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly)

Ilex glabra Distribution

Inkberry grows from Nova Scotia to Texas, never venturing far inland from the low-lying coastal plains. In the wild, inkberry holly is often found in bogs, but it grows just fine in typical garden soil.

How to Grow and Care for Ilex glabra

How to Grow Ilex glabra

  • With Seeds
Each holly berry each contains about four seeds. growing holly from seed can be difficult as the seed germination is slow, requiring anywhere from sixteen months to three years. In addition, it can take another three years before the holly shrubs produce any flowers. A specialized coating to survive harsh winters protects holly seeds; however, this pulp-like substance also makes propagation more difficult. Nonetheless, growing holly shrubs from seed propagation can be done, with patience. Collect holly berries and break the skin off. Rinse the seeds in cold water and then plant them in soilless potting medium within a large flat. Cover the flats and place outdoors in a protected area over the winter. If all goes well, the holly seeds should germinate by spring. Otherwise, they'll have to remain through another winter.
  • With Wood Cuttings
 Now, there are two types of holly cuttings that you can use for propagation. The most popular cuttings are those taken from hardwood growth during cold weather or their dormant period.  However, you can also use softwood cuttings taken in summer or late autumn.
For hardwood cuttings, you should cut above and below the bud unions from the branches for best growth. If you want to use softwoods, cut about 0.24 inches (0.6 cm) below a leaf node.
Once this process is complete, dip the cut ends into rooting hormone then plant your cuttings in a mixture of potting soil and sand. Holly cuttings need a well-lit location and regular watering to develop a healthy root system. Once established, you can transplant each baby plant in its permanent spot.
Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly)

How to Care for Ilex glabra

  • Light
This shrub prefers full sun, especially in cooler climates. It can, however, tolerate partial sun and may appreciate some shade in warmer areas.
  • Soil
Inkberry is best planted in average, medium to wet soils and in full sun to part shade. It is adaptable to both light and heavy soils but does best in rich, consistently moist, acidic soils.
  • Water
All shrubs should be watered 1-2 times per week, depending on the weather. Trees do not require more watering, except in drought conditions where there is less than 1 inch of rain per week. Groundcover, however, should be watered 3 times per week for 3 months.
Temperature and Humidity
Inkberry holly thrives in a wet, cool climate. This distinguishes it from other hollies, which often prefer drier locations.
  • Fertilizer
fertilize all your shrubs, evergreens, trees, groundcover, and perennials once every 3 weeks. This should be done during the months of April, May, June, July, and August.
  • Pruning
Holly Inkberry is a shrub that should be pruned in the late spring to maintain the shape and height of the plant.
Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly)

Uses of Ilex glabra

  • Honey
Gallberry honey is a highly rated honey that results from bees feeding on inkberry flowers. This honey is locally produced in certain parts of the Southeastern U. S. in areas where beekeepers release bees from late April to early June to coincide with inkberry flowering time.
  • Beverage
Dried and roasted inkberry leaves were first used by Native Americans to brew a black tea-like drink, hence the sometimes used common name of Appalachian tea for this shrub.

Varieties of Ilex glabra

Densa grows to 3 to 4 feet in height with a slightly greater width.
Compacta grows to 3 to 4 feet in height with a spread up to 6 feet. It has a tighter, more rounded growth habit than other forms.
Shamrock grows to 4 feet in height and spread. It has bright green foliage and is known to sucker less than other varieties.
Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly)

Ilex glabra Common Pests/Diseases

  • Leaf Spot
The leaf spot disease that affects inkberry is called anthracnose. Anthracnose appears as light tan to darker brown circular or irregular spots on the leaves. It spreads through spores in moist weather, which you can see with your naked eye as pinprick-sized pink dots in the leaf spots. To control, prune out diseased limbs and/or apply a fungicide containing thiophanate-methy or chlorothalonil until the disease is gone. To prevent anthracnose, avoid overhead watering.
  • Root Rots
Root rots can also affect the inkberry holly, especially Phytophthora and Thielaviopsis black root rot. They both cause yellowing of the leaves, early leaf drop, slow growth and, eventually, branch dieback, and occur most often with flooding and extreme heat. Fungicides cannot cure the holly plant of this disease but can stop the spread. Thiophanate-methyl will help with Thielaviopsis root rot and etridiazole and metalaxyl with Phytophthora. As the diseases cannot be cured, prevention by planting the inkberry in well-draining soil is your best bet.
  • Cankers
Botryosphaeria canker affects weaker inkberry plants, usually following extremely high or low temperatures and drought. The canker causes similar symptoms to root rot, including yellowing of the leaves and dieback. The cankers appear as sunken or cracked patches of wood, and girdle the stems so nutrients cannot reach the leaves. Prune out diseased branches as you notice them and take better care of the holly, watering during drought and mulching to retain soil moisture.
  •  Pests
Most pests don't bother inkberry, but some do. Aphids attack new growth and scale insects are sometimes a problem, but both can either be removed by hand or with a quick blast of water. The inkberry leaf miner can be a larger problem, creating ragged leaves. In small infestations, you can pick the leaves off the plant, while larger infestations may require pesticides. During droughts, spider mites can also appear.

Ilex glabra Companion Plants

Here are a few plants to consider for planting in front of the Inkberry: Tam Juniper - a stable plant with a very different texture than the Inkberry. It's mature height will be lower than the Inkberry also. Potentilla - this will produce very pretty flowers in the summer