How to Care for Holly Bushes


Holly bushes provide popular landscape plants often used for edging, borders or screens. Some holly plants are deciduous, although most varieties grown in the United States are evergreen. Fast-growing and tough, holly tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions. Gardeners value the plant for its attractive, glossy foliage and ornamental berries borne in fall and winter. Holly bushes produce red, yellow or even black berries that attract birds to their branches and serve to brighten the winter landscape when other plants are dormant.

Step 1

Plant holly bushes any time of year in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day. Apply a 3-inch layer of organic compost to the planting site and use a garden tiller to work it into the soil to increase fertility and drainage. Space holly bushes 3 to 12 feet apart.

Step 2

Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to the ground surrounding holly bushes to insulate the soil and suppress competitive weeds. Add additional mulch to the layer as often as necessary to keep it about 2 inches thick year-round.

Step 3

Apply water once every two weeks during the spring, summer and fall months to prevent the soil from drying out completely. Do not water when more than 2 inches of rain has fallen since the previous application of water.

Step 4

Fertilize during early spring, just before growth begins. Use a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer to provide adequate nutrition for root establishment, foliage growth and berry formation. Read the manufacturer's instructions for dosage information.

Step 5

Prune holly bushes in late spring and summer to promote a compact growth habit. Use pruning shears to remove branches that are excessively long, diseased or damaged. Cut off diseased branches at their point of origin to prevent spreading the infection.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never ingest holly berries, as they are extremely toxic. The fatal dosage for adults is about 20 berries. Do not plant holly bushes in a location where they are accessible by children.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic compost
  • Garden tiller
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • Clemson University Extension: Holly
  • University of Florida Extension: Ilex Opaca - American Holly
  • "Alabama and Mississippi Gardener's Guide"; Felder Rushing, Jennifer Greer; 2005
Keywords: holly bushes, holly plants, landscape plants

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