How to Care for an English Holly Bush


English holly (Ilex aquifolium), an evergreen tree or large bush native to Europe, produces glossy, evergreen foliage and ornamental, bright red berries. Gardeners often plant English holly in perennial borders or as specimen plants, particularly the numerous variegated cultivars on the market. These slow-growing plants eventually reach heights of up to 50 feet without pruning to maintain size, and they develop attractive, gray-colored bark as they mature. Hardy to USDA zone 7, English holly performs best in mild, coastal climates such as the Pacific Northwest.

Step 1

Plant your English holly bush during mid-spring in a location that receives at least six hours of full sunlight throughout the day and consists of well-drained, fertile soil. Space English holly bushes 3 to 5 feet apart to allow adequate room for mature growth.

Step 2

Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of thick, organic mulch over the soil surrounding the English holly bush to conserve moisture, deter unattractive weeds, and provide root insulation. Begin the mulch at least 4 inches away from the plant's crown to allow vital air circulation.

Step 3

Water English holly bush once every seven to 10 days, enough to keep the soil slightly moist without drying out completely. Decrease watering frequency to once every 14 days during winter. Apply water directly to the soil so excess moisture does not accumulate on the leaves.

Step 4

Feed the plant once per year during mid-fall using an acid-based 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Read the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage and application information. Water lightly before and after applying to prevent root burn and dissolve the nutrients into the soil.

Step 5

Prune your English holly bush once per year during late winter to improve the plant's health and appearance. Use hedge clippers to cut back any overgrown limbs or remove any diseased or damaged branches as necessary.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never consume English holly berries, as they are poisonous and can cause severe illness or death.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Hedge clippers


  • Purdue University Consumer Horticulture: Holly (Ilex)
  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Holly
  • University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Hollies

Who Can Help

  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: English holly bush, English holly care, Ilex aquifolium

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including