- Author: Linda Lewis Griffith
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Linda Lewis Griffith UCCE Master Gardener
Common Name: Toyon, California holly
Planting Zone: Sunset 14-24
Size: 8-15 ft. shrub or small, multi-trunked tree to 25 ft.
Bloom Season: Flowers in summer; red berries in fall and winter
Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
Pruning Needs: None needed. But trimming to increase first-year wood enhances berry production
Water Needs: Drought tolerant; however, looks better with moderate watering
Narrative:This California native is a member of the rose family and best known by its Native American name, toyon. Dense foliage is comprised of dark green leathery leaves, usually 2-4 inches long, that have sharply serrated edges. Clusters of creamy white flowers bloom from late spring into summer and are frequently visited by butterflies. In the fall, blossoms are replaced by colorful, pea-sized orange to red berries that are a food source for birds and other wildlife throughout the winter. Toyons can be used as dense shrubs or small mounding trees. Attractive, evergreen foliage make it an excellent choice for screening and background plantings. Mature trees can be pruned to expose visually interesting branches as well as encourage a tree-like growth pattern. Toyon has long been admired and cultivated in California gardens. It grows well in coastal, inland and valley areas across the state and is tolerant of a wide variety of soils, moisture and exposures. It plays a prominent role in the coastal sage scrub plant community and is a key component of chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. It develops deep roots and grows on steep, dry slopes and canyons throughout California and Northern Baja California, from sea level to 4,000 feet. Toyon is often credited for influencing the naming of Hollywood. There are no native hollies in California. However, toyon is prolific in the chaparral-covered hills above Los Angeles and its holly-like leaves and berries are often mistaken for the popular Christmas berry. The genus name, Heteromoles, means different apple and refers to the fruit's similarity to pears and apples but without their culinary appeal. The species name, arbutifolia, refers to the fact that its leaves are similar to plants from the genus, Arbutus, including madrones.