How to Care for a Holly Shrub


Holly (Ilex), a large genus of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, produces attractive, glossy foliage and brightly colored, ornamental berries that attract birds to the garden. Often grown in woodland gardens or as hedges, hollies require both male and female plants in close proximity to flower and produce berries. Holly plants vary in size from 18 inches to over 50 feet high, depending on the variety. Even deciduous types keep their foliage well into fall, and evergreen varieties provide interest throughout the winter months. All holly shrubs and trees have similar care requirements and need only basic maintenance to thrive.

Step 1

Plant holly shrubs during early spring at a site that consists of moist, well-drained soil and receives full sunlight for the best berry production. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the soil and then use a tiller to incorporate the material to a depth of at least 6 inches.

Step 2

Feed holly once per year during spring and just after planting. Spread a 1-inch layer of compost over the soil surrounding the plant just before applying mulch. Do not allow the compost to touch the plant to minimize the risk of disease.

Step 3

Apply a 2-inch layer of organic mulch over the soil surrounding holly each spring to prevent the establishment of weeds and improve the soil's moisture retention. Allow a minimum of 3 inches between the plant's crown and the mulch layer to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

Step 4

Water your holly shrub once every week during summer, but only during weeks that receive less than 1 inch of rainfall. The plant requires no supplemental watering throughout the rest of the year. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 inches at each application to ensure the roots absorb plenty of moisture.

Step 5

Prune holly shrubs during late winter or early spring to promote a thick, bushy growth habit and keep the plant aesthetically pleasing. Trim back overgrown branches as needed and remove diseased and damaged growth using pruning shears.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Tiller
  • Organic mulch
  • Pruning shears


  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Holly
  • National Gardening Association Plant Care Guides: Holly
  • Fine Gardening: Genus Ilex (Holly)
  • "Illinois Gardener's Guide"; James A. Fizzell; 2002
Keywords: holly shrub care, growing holly shrubs, caring for holly

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