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Past Articles Library | Trees | How to Care for a Holly


Hollies are beautiful trees that can be used for many different things, which includes as a specimen plant, a shrub, and even a living privacy fence.  To get the most from your plant, you need to first know how to care for a holly.

First, keep in mind that most holly varieties are dioecious, which means you need a male and female plant for fertilization.  While there are some varieties that are self-pollinating, the majority require both sexes.

If you do not have at least one of each, your holly will flower but will never produce fruit “berries.”

Once you have your plants, it is time to select and prepare the landscape for the new material.  As far as selection of an area goes for a holly, consider the size of your holly and what is around.  Many species reach a mature size that is too large to be planted near a home or utility lines.  Also, make sure to choose a location that is in full sun or receives partial shade.


To begin the preparation process, one will need to dig a hole that is no deeper than the container that the plants have come in.  When it comes to the width though, make sure that it is at least twice the width of the container. 

After you have the hole(s) dug, the next step in this process is to remove the holly from its container.  If the holly is in a pot, cut away the container with a sharp knife and then gently tease the roots.  This simple step will allow the roots to grow outward instead of continuing to grow in the shape of the container.  If you have a lot of clay in the soil, scrap the inside of the hole with a rake.  This will prevent the hole from glazing over and preventing the roots from spreading out.   Next, place the holly in the center of the hole and fill in with removed soil. 

If you are planting two of the same variety, space them out so that they are 100 feet apart.  This will improve pollination rates, which means more berries.

Once holly is planted, water in and fill in as needed.  Add 4 inches of mulch on top making sure to keep the mulch away from the trunk.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer in the late winter but do not overdo it.  Hollies react negatively to being overfed.  If you are concerned with this, apply a thick layer of well-seasoned compost in the early spring.

Prune the holly in late winter after berries have formed.

While a holly is a beautiful plant, there are a few issues that should be considered before making a trip to the nursery.  First, while the berries bring a splash of color in the winter, they also provide food for birds.  In doing so, you may want to consider not planting this plant along driveways, sidewalks and/or near cars.  Also, do not plant them in areas where young children may play.  Not only do the spikes on the leaves cause a hazard but the berries can be poisonous if eaten.



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