How to Prune Holly Plants


The American holly plant is a perennial shrub that is native to the United States. The plant actively grows during the spring and summer months and produces berries in the fall season. American holly is slow growing but will eventually reach a height of 15 to 30 feet. The shrub should be pruned during the winter season, when it goes dormant, to reduce damage to new growth and berry production.

Step 1

Disinfect all pruning equipment by washing it in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. Let the tools dry prior to using.

Step 2

Remove all damaged and dead branches by cutting them at a 45 degree angle close to the stem or branch meeting point. This will limit the size of the wound and promote healing. Do not leave more than 1/4 inch of the branch.

Step 3

Prune to remove all branches that are longer than the desired shape of the plant or shrub. Cut the holly branches above the new leaf buds or back to the main stem or branch. Do not drastically remove branches as this will decrease the amount of new plant growth.

Step 4

Prune the plant to thin out interior branches. This allows air circulation and light to enter the plant and promote growth and decrease disease. Remove branches that take away from the natural shape of the plant, making sure to space the removal to keep the shrub evenly shaped. Do not remove too much growth at one pruning, as this will decrease new growth.

Step 5

Cut back overgrown or straggly holly plants to a height of 6 to 8 inches above the ground level. Cut all stems and branches and let the holly re-grow to a natural shape. Prune the plant yearly to keep it under control and in a desired shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Pruning clipper
  • Work gloves
  • Long sleeved shirt


  • Gardening Know How: Trimming Holly Bushes
  • American Forests: The Festive American Holly
  • Texas A&M: Proper Pruning Techniques
Keywords: prune holly plant, trim holly shrub, remove holly growth

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.