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Sky Pencil Holly vs Italian Cypress: What Is The Difference?

Privacy plants are perfect for those who enjoy quiet moments away from prying eyes. Imagine the beauty of a living wall made of greenery! Today, let’s explore two popular choices for creating such screens.

The key difference between Italian Cypress and Sky Pencil Holly lies in their size. Italian Cypress stands taller and is a bit wider than Sky Pencil Holly.

Also, Italian Cypress requires more sunlight compared to Sky Pencil Holly. Plus, it’s more resilient during dry spells than Sky Pencil Holly.

sky pencil holly vs italian cypress

Sky Pencil Holly and Italian Cypress

Sky Pencil Holly Italian Cypress 
Name Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ Cupressus sempervirens
USDA Hardiness zone 5-9 7-11
Mature height 8-10′ 35-40′
Mature width 2′ 5-8′
Growth rate medium fast
Light exposure full sun, partial shade full sun
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 5.5-7.0 6.0-7.0
Watering 1-2 times per week in a drought 1 time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, mites


Sky Pencil Holly is considerably shorter than its counterpart, typically not going beyond 10 feet in height. It usually stands at about 8 feet tall and stays within 2 feet in width.

In contrast, Italian Cypress can soar up to 40 feet high, and sometimes even more under ideal conditions. Its width, though, isn’t much more than Sky Pencil Holly, averaging between 5 to 6 feet, and only occasionally reaching 8 feet.

The growth rates of these plants are quite distinct as well. Italian Cypress grows quickly, adding 1-2 feet each year. On the other hand, Sky Pencil Holly grows at a slower pace, about 6 to 8 inches annually, but with proper feeding, it can stretch up to 10 inches per year.

Therefore, for a hedge plant, Italian Cypress stands out as a better option. Not only do you need fewer plants to create a dense screen, but you’ll also achieve privacy faster due to its quicker growth rate.


Another key difference between Sky Pencil Holly and Italian Cypress is their shape. While both are columnar, they have distinct structural variations.

Sky Pencil Holly features a multi-trunk structure, meaning it doesn’t have a single central trunk. Instead, it has several trunks of different thicknesses.

In contrast, Italian Cypress grows with one main central trunk, from which side branches extend. Sometimes, additional central stems may develop, but they seldom match the size of the primary trunk.

This multi-stem formation gives Sky Pencil Holly a rounded top, whereas Italian Cypress boasts a pointed, spear-like tip.

However, the multi-trunk design of Sky Pencil Holly has a drawback: it’s prone to damage from heavy snow or strong winds, which can easily break it apart. Tying the trunks together doesn’t always prevent this. Italian Cypress, with its single trunk structure, doesn’t face this issue.


Italian Cypress isn’t as tough in cold weather as Sky Pencil Holly. It’s best grown in areas no colder than USDA hardiness zone 7, which makes sense since its natural home is the Mediterranean and northern Africa.

Sky Pencil Holly, however, handles cooler temperatures better. Many nurseries suggest growing it in zone 5 and upwards. It can survive in colder climates, but as mentioned earlier, it’s vulnerable to damage from snow.

When it comes to warmer regions, Italian Cypress has the upper hand. It thrives in the climates of zones 10 and 11. Sky Pencil Holly, on the other hand, struggles in areas south of zone 9 and may face challenges in hot climates.

So, if you’re in the northern parts of the United States, Sky Pencil Holly is your go-to. For those in the south, Italian Cypress is the more fitting choice.

Drought Tolerance

Sky Pencil Holly’s leaf shape causes it to lose more moisture, meaning it needs more frequent watering. This is particularly true in zone 9, where strong sunlight leads to significant water loss during the day.

To ensure Sky Pencil Holly stays healthy in zone 9, it should be watered at least weekly during dry spells. The plant generally needs about 2-3 gallons of water, depending on its size. To simplify this task, consider setting up an automatic watering system or planting it in an area that naturally stays moist.

On the other hand, Italian Cypress is far more resilient in dry conditions. It handles drought well and doesn’t suffer adverse effects from lack of water. Therefore, if you’re in a dry area or prefer low-maintenance gardening, Italian Cypress is an excellent choice.


Italian Cypress thrives in sunny environments, a trait stemming from its natural habitat. The more sunlight it receives, the denser its foliage becomes.

It’s essential to plant Italian Cypress in a spot where it gets at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. If it gets less, you’ll notice fewer needles and a less robust crown. Moreover, inadequate sunlight makes Italian Cypress more prone to fungal diseases.

If your yard is more shaded, Sky Pencil Holly might be a better fit. It adapts well to both full sun and partial shade. Aim to provide it with at least three hours of direct sunlight each day.

In northern areas, Sky Pencil Holly requires more sunlight. However, in zones 8-9, it does well in partial shade rather than full sun, finding these conditions more agreeable.


Sky Pencil Holly features small, rounded leaves that are similar to those of boxwood. This leaf shape adds a touch of interest, making it particularly appealing as a standalone plant.

Italian Cypress, being a conifer, has leaves that are narrow, thin, and plentiful.

The crown of Sky Pencil Holly appears somewhat denser due to its larger leaves, yet it’s still not as wide as its counterpart. Therefore, if you’re aiming for a shorter hedge to provide afternoon shade, Sky Pencil Holly is a suitable option. However, you’ll need to plant them closer together compared to Italian Cypress.

Conversely, if you’re in the south and in need of a tall, quickly-growing screen, Italian Cypress is the more advantageous choice.