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A picture of a Cape Holly

Cape Holly

Ilex mitis

Also known as

African Holly

Small Ilex mitis bush - Kirstenbosch by Abu Shawka (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Full Sun
Easy care
Frequent watering


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a strong fragrance

More images of Cape Holly

A photo of Cape Holly
A photo of Cape Holly
A photo of Cape Holly
A photo of Cape Holly
A photo of Cape Holly

Cape Holly Overview

The African holly has attractive bark and berries. It grows throughout the country and is one of the few indigenous evergreen trees that cope with frost, making it suitable for colder, frosty gardens too. Ilex mitis is a fairly fast-growing tree species, capable of growing 0.8 m a year, making it a good species for use as hedging. It transplants well but needs protection whilst young. Originating from southern Africa, Ilex mitis grows best in dry environments when planted alongside a running stream. To be sure of fruit, plant a small grove of these trees and remove extra males later.

Common problems with Cape Holly

Generally trouble free

    How to harvest Cape Holly

    Generally not harvested

    How to propagate Cape Holly


    Fresh seed grows easily. Seed collected from the tree or those fallen below the tree should be allowed to dry. Trees can be very tall, making collecting off the tree very difficult. They should then be sown into a tray containing a 1:1 mixture of river sand and compost. Seedling mix obtained from nursery centres is also suitable. Seed should be covered lightly with the soil mix and then kept damp. Although germination can be erratic, seeds usually begin to germinate 8-20 days after sowing. The seedlings need to be transplanted into a mix of sand and compost in bags at the two-leaf stage.

    Special features of Cape Holly

    Attracts birds

    Many bird species feed on the berries.

    Attracts useful insects

    Attracts bees

    Hedge plant

    Because of their fast growth they make good hedging and screening plants.

    Wet sites

    Occurs naturally along river and streams or in moist areas of Afro-montane forest.

    Attracts butterflies

    Attractive flowers

    Wind break

    Attracts bees

    Other uses of Cape Holly

    Other uses


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