Holm oak (Quercus ilex)

Quercus rotundifolia is a lovely garden tree

Image - Wikimedia / Paulo together

El Quercus ilex It is an evergreen tree, sometimes shrub, that can be grown in large or small gardens. Its growth rate is rather slow, but with time it gives a very pleasant shade. In addition, the fruits it produces are edible.

If you want to know how to take care of it, don't stop reading 🙂.

Origin and characteristics

Quercus rotundifolia, is the scientific name of an evergreen tree

It is a species native to the Mediterranean region, found in practically the entire Iberian Peninsula, the Balearic Islands, North Africa, France and Italy. It also grows in points in the UK. It is known by the scientific name Quercus ilex, and for the common short or short, holm oak, holm oak or alzina.

Grows to a maximum height of 16 to 25 meters, with an oval cup at the beginning that becomes rounded as the years go by. In any case, it is important to know that it can remain as a 3-5 meter bush, especially if the terrain is very rocky or does not have enough nutrients, or if it rains little.

The leaves are evergreen, remaining in the tree an average of 2,7 years before being replaced by new ones. They have a leathery texture, and are dark green on the top and lighter on the underside. When young it has thorns on the margins, and once adult it has them on the lower branches. For this reason, in its bushy form it is easily confused with holly.

It is dioecious, which means that there are female feet and male feet. The female flowers are small, solitary or in groups of two, orange-yellow when mature; the masculine ones appear in hanging and yellowish catkins. The fruit is the acorn, which measures about 2-3cm in length and has a cap that covers it almost halfway. In general, it takes an average of 15-20 years to be able to bear fruit for the first time since the seed germinates.

Main varieties

There are different varieties or subspecies of holm oak, the main ones being the following:

  • Quercus ilex 'Rotundifolia': or Quercus rotundifolia. Known as broad-leaved holm oak, sweet holm oak or sweet acorn holm oak, it is an evergreen tree of 8 to 15 meters in height native to the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, some parts of France and some of the United Kingdom.
  • Quercus ilex 'Ilex': Originally from some parts of France and the rest of the Mediterranean, such as the Balearic Islands or Italy.

What are their cares?

If you want to have a copy, we recommend you take care of it as follows:


It is a tree that must be outside, in full sun or in semi-shade. It does not have invasive roots, but it does need room to grow so it is important that it be planted at least 5-6 meters away from pipes, paved soils and other tall plants.


  • Flower pot: It uses universal growing medium mixed with 30% perlite, but it is not a plant that can be kept in a container for its entire life.
  • Garden: the holm oak grows in siliceous or limestone soils, well drained.


It is a plant that resists drought quite well, but without going to extremes. For it to have a good growth and development it is necessary to water it more or less frequently during the summer, preventing the earth from drying out completely, and every 4-5 days the rest of the year.

And it is that, yes, it is from the Mediterranean and as such it adapts without problems to living in areas where summer is dry and very warm and winter is mild, but if you have help, even a small one, you will be better off.

Anyway, if you have doubts, check the humidity of the soil before watering. For this you can use a digital humidity meter or insert a thin wooden stick.


Manure guano powder is very good for Quercus ilex

Guano powder.

From early spring to late winter / early fall you can pay it once a month with Organic fertilizers, like guano (you can buy it here in dust and here liquid) for example, following the instructions specified on the packaging.


El Quercus ilex multiplies by seeds or by root shoots in spring. Let's see how to proceed in each case:


  1. First you have to fill a pot of about 13cm in diameter with universal growing substrate and water it thoroughly.
  2. Afterwards, a maximum of two seeds are placed in the center, and covered with a thin layer of substrate.
  3. Then copper or sulfur is sprinkled on the surface.
  4. Afterwards, they are covered with a thin layer of substrate and watered again, this time with a sprayer.
  5. Finally, the pot is placed outside, in semi-shade.

They will germinate in 1-2 months.

Root shoots

Root shoots are seedlings that come out next to the mother plant. In order to separate them, you have to make trenches about 20cm deep, and simply remove them carefully. They are then planted in individual pots or in the garden, and watered with homemade rooting agents until growth is seen (usually takes a few weeks).


In late winter it can be prunedeven drastically. We must remove dry, diseased or weak branches, as well as trim those that are growing too much.

Plagues and diseases

It is very resistant in general, but it is vulnerable to attack by defoliation caterpillars (tortrix and Limantria), as well as what is called the dry oak. It is not clear what the causes of the latter may be, but if the tree has been receiving a regular water supply and then suffers a drought, it is likely to have a very bad time to the point of being in serious danger of death.

To avoid problems, it is necessary to take proper care of the Quercus ilex, giving it water and 'food' (fertilizer) whenever necessary, and above all not overusing pruning.


Resists frost up to -12ºC, but it is not a plant to have in tropical climates.

What uses does it have?

  • Ornamental: it is a very decorative plant, which over time gives a good shade. In addition, it can be pruned to give it a bush or bonsai shape.
  • FoodAcorns are used as a livestock resource in the pastures, but they are also edible for humans.
  • Wood: It is used to make charcoal, and to make parts that will withstand high friction such as carts or plows.
    The bark is appreciated for tanning leather, especially in Morocco.
The fruits of the oak are edible

Image - Wikimedia / Tony Hisgett

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