Blue Prince and Princess Hollies vs. China Boy and China Girl Hollies-Which Variety Is Better??
Blue Prince/Blue Princess Hollies, and China Boy/China Girl Hollies are part of the group of Meserve Hybrid Hollies first bred nearly 40 years ago. They are broadleaf evergreens and have found an important place, as well as continue to play an outstanding role in landscape plantings. Blue Prince/Blue Princess Hollies, and China Boy/China Girl Hollies have similar characteristics, yet differ from each other in many ways.
The origin of the Meserve Hybrid hollies began with the crossing of the cold hardy Ilex rugosa, Prostrate Holly, and Ilex aquifolium, English Holly in the mid-1960s by Mrs. F. Leighton Meserve. The Meserve Hollies are dioecious, with male and female flowers confined to separate plants. One male plant, according to most sources can pollinate up to 8-10 female plants.
Blue Prince & Princess Holly
Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’ Hollies were first developed as improved cultivars of Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl’. They are winter hardy in zones 4-7, and have been known to withstand temperatures to -17°F. They reach a mature height of 8-10 feet and a width of 8-12 feet. They are adaptable to many soils, but thrive best in an organic well-drained soil. They are best suited in northern climates on a north or east exposure, as they can be subject to leaf burn on sunny exposures during the cold weather months. They are easily pruned, and can be used for hedges, groupings, or specimen plants. I am partial to these cultivars, as Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Princess’ has a much darker leaf and darker fruit than Ilex x meserveae ‘China Girl’ with purplish-green stems. I believe these hollies are second to none as far as their “wow” factor in the landscape, particularly against a backdrop of snow during the winter months. Blue Princess, if suitably pollinated, produces a heavy fruit set, and provides a great cut centerpiece for the holidays!
China Boy & Girl Holly
A few years later Ilex x meserveae ‘China Boy’ and ‘China Girl’ were introduced as a cross between Ilex cornuta, Chinese Holly, and Ilex aquifolium, English Holly. While they are similar in many ways to Blue Prince and Blue Princess Hollies, these cultivars are touted as being more heat resistant and more cold resistant than the China Boy and China Girl. They have been found to be cold resistant down to -20ºF. They reach a mature height of 7-10 feet, and a mature width of 5-8 feet. They have lighter green lustrous leaves, and light green stems.
When these cultivars were first developed and in production they were highly sought landscape plants. I can remember that when I was in the garden center business with my father in the late 1970s and 1980s, it was nearly impossible for the production of these plants to keep up with the demand. In my opinion, these plants continue to play an important role in today’s landscape, and are some of the best broadleaf evergreens for their versatility and aesthetic beauty.