An ancient symbol of protection and congratulations, many religions and cultures revere holly for its shiny green foliage and blood red berry clusters. Although the typical holly has become a winter decoration staple, holly bushes can produce smooth, elliptical shaped leaves and orange, yellow, black or white berries as well. Follow a few key steps to achieve planting success with your favorite holly variety.
Choose a variety that will be hardy in your area and then pick a location in full sun. Good drainage is a must. Dwarf hollies start at three feet in height, with species reaching up to 50 feet tall or higher. Get specifics on the mature height of the holly bush before you plant for a good size match. Early fall is a good time to plant most holly species.
Prepare the soil for planting by adding up to four inches of organic compost, such as pine bark. Till the compost into the soil to a depth of eight to 12 inches. Adding organic matter provides long term nutrients for the shrub, and aids in drainage.
Dig a hole just as deep as the root ball and up to two times as wide. The root ball should sit at the base of the hole, with the top of the ball just peeking out above the surface.
Remove the shrub carefully from the container or burlap covering. Cut any encircling roots that may bind the ball and prevent growth. For container specimens, make vertical cuts at four equidistant points along the ball, one to two inches into the roots, for best results.
Set the ball onto the firm ground at the base of the hole. Gently fill the hole, tamping the soil lightly as you backfill to the top. Create a berm of soil about three inches tall encircling the root ball at the surface to act as a water ring. Water the holly shrub thoroughly, concentrating the water over the root ball area.
Provide a three-inch layer of mulch, such as composted pine needles, over the entire planting bed but not touching the trunk of the shrub. Mulch retains moisture, discourages weeds and will gradually become part of the soil, making it richer.