Holly bushes (Ilex spp.) are perennial shrubs valued for their evergreen foliage, colorful berries and ease of growth in the garden or landscape. The shrubs bloom during the spring and summer months, producing inconspicuous green flowers that eventually form small, red berries that persist through fall. Holly's dark green, barbed foliage is attractive throughout the year, which makes the bush an ideal planting for areas that need color during the winter months. Native to temperate regions around the world, holly bushes thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9 and often make their homes in perennial border gardens.
Plant holly bushes during spring in a location that consists of well-drained, fertile soil and receives full sunlight throughout the day. Holly bushes planted in partial shade will survive but flowering and berry production may be reduced. Space holly bushes 3 to 12 feet apart.
Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the planting site to insulate the soil, deter weeds and retain moisture. Allow at least 3 inches between the mulch and the plant's crown to promote air circulation and reduce the risk of fungal disease. Replenish the mulch as necessary throughout the year to keep it between 2 and 4 inches thick.
Water holly bushes once per week during the first season of growth to help establish their root systems. Reduce watering frequency thereafter to only during periods of extreme heat or drought. Soak the soil thoroughly to a depth of at least 6 inches at each application to ensure the roots absorb as much moisture as possible.
Feed the plants once per year during spring, just as active growth begins, using a granular 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Check the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage. Water lightly before and after applying to dissolve the granules and distribute their nutrients through the soil for easier absorption by the roots.
Prune holly bushes during late winter, just before new growth resumes in spring. Use hedge clippers to remove any damaged or diseased branches at their point of origin. Trim back any overgrown limbs to improve the plant's aesthetic appeal and keep it growing compactly, if desired.