How to Care for a Holly Tree in Kentucky


The holly tree is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 60 feet tall. Its dense growth and spiny evergreen leaves make it an ideal candidate for a windbreak or privacy screen. Additionally, the spines on the leaves make holly a good security hedge around fences. In winter, the holly's bright red berries have made it a common plant for seasonal decorating. Kentucky's moderate winters and rich, lime-fed soil create an ideal environment for holly trees to thrive in.

Step 1

Determine the spot where you will plant your holly tree based on future growth. A holly tree may grow as tall as 60 feet. Therefore, planting it beneath the window of a home is not a good location.

Step 2

Test your soil in fall before spring planting of holly trees. Holly trees like slightly acidic soil in the 6.5 range. A sol test can tell you the pH of your soil, and recommend any other nutrients for your garden that you may need to add. The University of Kentucky maintains testing facilities where you can send soil samples. Instructions for sending soil samples as well as forms and fee rates may be found at

Step 3

Select companion plants for your holly. Young holly plants thrive in partial shade and may perform poorly in full sun. Companion plants will also shield young holly trees from Kentucky's cold winter winds that can harm the plant.

Step 4

Break up the soil three months in advance using a rototiller. Work organic material such as compost into the soil as well as powdered sulfur to lower the pH based on the results of the test in step 1. Peat moss is another good organic soil amendment that contains acid to help holly trees thrive in Kentucky soil.

Step 5

Plant your holly tree in spring after the last spring frost. Dig the planting hole twice as large as the root ball of your tree, but no deeper. Unwrap the root ball and place it into the planting hole. Cover with soil and water well. Soil should remain as damp as a wrung-out sponge while plants become established.

Step 6

Mulch around the root system with a 3-inch layer of pine needles to hold in moisture. As pine needles decompose, they add acid to the Kentucky soil as well. Fertilize in spring with a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants such as cottonseed meal or azalea fertilizer.

Step 7

Prune in early spring before new growth begins to maintain a symmetrical shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Rototiller
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Powdered sulfur
  • Peat moss
  • Pine needle mulch
  • Hedge trimmers


  • North Carolina State University: Ilex opaca
  • Mississippi State University: Savannah has native American holly roots
  • The Garden Helper: How to grow and care for Holly Trees

Who Can Help

  • University of Kentucky Division of Regulatory Services: Soil
  • Grow It: Kentucky USDA Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: planting holly trees in Kentucky, growing holly in Kentucky, Kentucky holly trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."