How to Care for a Holly Bush


The holly bush belongs to the genus Ilex, which consists of more than 400 different species. Holly plants occur as evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous shrubs and trees, all with similar characteristics. Small holly bushes may grow no taller than 18 inches and perform best as low hedges. Large holly bushes reach up to 50 feet in height and gardeners often use them as tall hedges or privacy screens. Some of the most popular varieties include Japanese, Chinese and American hollies. Valued for their attractive foliage and bright red, ornamental berries, holly bushes all share similar care requirements and thrive with minimal maintenance in the home landscape.

Step 1

Plant holly bush during mid-spring to early summer in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day and consists of well-drained, moist soil. Space holly bushes 3 to 4 feet apart to accommodate their mature size and prevent crowding.

Step 2

Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch over the ground surrounding your holly bush to retain moisture, insulate the roots and deter the growth of competitive weeds. Begin the mulch several inches from the base of the holly bush to reduce the risk of fungal disease.

Step 3

Water holly bush once per week to keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 5 inches at each application to ensure the roots absorb enough moisture. Do not water during the winter when the plant is dormant.

Step 4

Feed during late fall using an acid-based fertilizer to give the plant a boost of energy for growth the following spring. Water lightly before and after applying to release the nutrients into the soil. Read the manufacturer's instructions for dosage information.

Step 5

Prune holly bush during winter to promote branching and new foliage production. Use pruning shears to remove any excessively long, diseased or damaged branches to improve the plant's health and overall appearance, or to keep it growing compactly.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Holly
  • University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Hollies
  • "Illinois Gardener's Guide"; James A. Fizzell; 2002
Keywords: holly bush, care for holly, genus Ilex

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