How to Trim Holly Bushes


Holly bushes are popular plants that produce dark green, waxy leaves often with pointed ends. Their berries are important food for migrating birds and often attract deer, squirrels and even wild turkeys. Healthy plants can live for more than 100 years and reach a height of 30 feet. Trim your holly bushes to encourage new growth, increase air circulation and create appealing shapes. Be careful not to remove too much wood (usually anything over a third of the plant at a time) or fruiting will be significantly reduced during the next growing season.

Step 1

Clean pruning shears with boiling water before use. Be sure blades are sufficiently sharpened to prevent uneven cuts and damage to branches.

Step 2

Remove old, weak and diseased stems throughout the year. Cut branches at the base of the stem and discard away from bush to prevent the spread of disease.

Step 3

Remove a third of the branches in early December while plant is dormant. Space out the removal of branches so as to open up the interior of the plant and create a balanced look. This will increase air circulation and prompt rapid growth in the spring.

Step 4

Cut back old and scraggly bushes 6 to 8 inches from the ground. This will encourage rapid new growth in the spring and allow for easy shaping as your bush grows.

Step 5

Prune your holly bush into a tree shape by removing the lower limbs on the bottom third of the tree. This can be done in early spring or late winter and requires the constant removal of new sprouts on the lower half of the plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never prune the lower branches of your bush shorter than upper branches as they may die from lack of sun exposure. Always wear gloves to protect your hands from cuts.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Gloves


  • Texas A&M University: Pruning
  • American Forest Magazine: The Festive American Holly
Keywords: trim holly bushes, prune holly bushes, holly bush care

About this Author

Kelsey Erin Shipman has worked as a travel writer, poet, journalist and award-winning photographer since 2004. Her work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines and journals. Shipman has also authored three collections of poetry: "Cold Days," "Bastante" and "Short Poems." She earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Southwestern University.