How to Plant & Trim Holly


Holly bushes have dark green glossy foliage and bright red berries. This hardy shrub is ideal for creating thorny hedges or sculpted bushes. If you prefer a more wild and natural look, holly grows well with little pruning or attention. Holly grows well outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9; if you live in a colder climate, place your holly in a pretty clay pot and bring it indoors for the winter months.

Step 1

Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the nursery pot your holly is in. The hole should be slightly larger and about as deep as the pot.

Step 2

Turn your holly plant on its side and grasp the stem. Wiggle it back and forth until it comes free from the pot. Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands from the sharp spiny leaves.

Step 3

Place the root ball into the hole. The base of the stem should be level with the surrounding soil. Fill in or carve out soil under the root ball if you need to.

Step 4

Fill the soil in around the root ball a few handfuls at a time. Pat down the soil as you go to prevent air pockets.

Step 5

Water the area to a depth of at least 4 inches. Keep the soil damp for the first four to eight weeks after your transplant. Once the tree is established, water only if the weekly rainfall drops below 1 inch.

Step 6

Prune your holly in the winter when the tree is dormant. Snip protruding branches to create the look you desire.

Step 7

Use a sharp tree saw to make clean cuts on larger branches. Clip off smaller branches with a pair of sharp pruning shears.

Step 8

Prune your tree lightly any time of year. Use sharp pruning shears to take off any unwanted branches.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear heavy gloves whenever your are working with holly to protect your hands from the sharp thorns. Holly berries are toxic, so keep them away from curious children or pets who might try to eat the colorful red fruits.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Gloves
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw


  • USDA Forest Service: American Holly
  • University of Florida: Carissa Holly

Who Can Help

  • National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: shrub care, pruning shrubs, USDA hardiness zones

About this Author

Olivia Parker has been a freelance writer with Demand Studios for the past year, writing for Garden Guides and eHow. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Parker is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts from Boston University Online.