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Ilex glabra Gem Box®

Ilex glabra Gem Box®

Native alternative to boxwood
ZONE 5,6,7,8,9
As low as $14.99
  • Native evergreen looks like boxwood
  • Lush and full to the ground
  • Tiny white flowers in late spring
  • Naturally grows with a neat, rounded shape
  • Makes a shapely specimen or nice low hedge
  • Ship size: Starter Quart
  • View all TREES & SHRUBS
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Ilex glabra Gem Box® Description

Gem Box® inkberry holly (Ilex glabra) is a ground-breaking alternative to boxwood. Though it grows native across much of eastern North America, Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs selected Gem Box® for its dense, neat, rounded shape and ability to stay lush and full all the way to the ground. It makes a perfect evergreen, semi-formal accent to pollinator or native plant gardens, or plant it as a durable low hedge. Does not require pruning or trimming to maintain its shape.

Inkberry holly is quite durable, tolerating very wet and occasionally dry conditions. It's not quite as shade tolerant or deer resistant as boxwood, but has the advantage of attracting pollinators and being a bit less fussy and far more disease resistant.

History buffs, take note: this plants is called “inkberry holly” because Civil War soldiers used its berries to make a crude ink to write letters home.

You may also want to check out Strongbox inkberry holly, which is like Gem Box but offers a lower, more cylindrical shape.

Special features: Evergreen, Boxwood substitute, Native plant, Low hedge

Quick Facts

  • Botanical name: Ilex glabra 'SMNIGAB17'
  • Common name:
    Inkberry holly
  • Zone:
  • Sun exposure:
    Full sun (min. 6 hrs/day) to part shade (4-6 hrs/day)
  • Delivery:
    See schedule
  • Ship form:
    Starter quart
  • Soil type:
    Moist, well-drained soil.
  • Soil moisture:
    Average. Leaves can brown if it becomes too dry too often.
  • Height x width:
    2-3' tall and wide
  • Flower color:
  • Foliage color:
  • Season of interest:
  • Uses:
    Hedge, Low hedge, Specimen, Containers, Formal gardens, Native plant gardens
  • Cannot ship to:
    AK, HI
  • Patent:USPP 27,554



Soil:  Moist but well-drained soils are best. Though inkberry holly can take some dryness, foliage will begin to brown if it drys out frequently or severely. Occasional standing water or very wet soil is ok.  
Light: Full sun (6+ hrs/day) to part shade (4-6 hrs/day).
Water:  Average to abundant (as long as soil is well-drained).
Space:  2-3' apart, depending on landscape role.
Fertilizing:  If desired, fertilize in early spring, once the ground has thawed, with a granular rose fertilizer. A second application may be made in late spring/early summer as well.
Winterizing:  2-3" of shredded bark mulch is important to protect the shallow roots and minimize water loss. Do not allow plants to enter winter "thirsty" – dry soil during cold, windy weather is the main cause of leaf browning or even the plant dying.
Maintenance:  Trim as needed to maintain shape and size desired. Save major pruning for mid-late spring, after new growth has emerged but before it becomes hard and woody.