How to Plant Holly Shrubs


Hollies bring unusual foliage in summer garden and persistent berries for winter interest. Evergreen holly grows widely in Atlantic Europe and the southeastern U.S. Deciduous hollies, called "winterberries," extend the range of these attractive plants northward. Plant male and female plants to ensure copious amounts of berries. Evergreen holly demands well-drained clay loam but deciduous hollies tolerate heavier clay soil. Plant holly shrubs during their dormant periods. Plant evergreen hollies in very early spring before growth buds swell on plants, and plant deciduous forms in early spring or in late fall before the ground freezes.

Step 1

Locate holly where it will have enough room to spread; evergreen holly needs about 10 feet on all sides. Deciduous possumhaw and winterberry hollies require less; 5 to 8 feet should suffice. Check packaging for spacing specific to your variety.

Step 2

Dig a sloping hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball. Remove the container or wrapping and spray the roots if they are dry. Trim any injured branches back to a growth node where a new branch can form.

Step 3

Place the holly in the hole and rough up the soil on the sides if the soil is heavy and the sides are packed smooth. Fill the hole halfway and water well to settle the soil. Arrange the shrub as the water settles so that its crown sits in the soil at the same level as it was in the container.

Step 4

Finish back-filling the hole with garden soil. Mulch the shrub with 2 to 3 inches of pine bark, straw or well-rotted leaf mulch.

Step 5

Water the shrub well; it should need no further watering until summer. Protect holly with a plastic sleeve or hardware cloth cage if deer or rabbits are a problem in your garden. Tender hollies make attractive snacks.

Tips and Warnings

  • To produce holly berries, female plants must be located near compatible male plants. This may not be a problem if there are other holly plants in your neighborhood. If not, plant at least one holly of each sex from the same family.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden spade and fork
  • Pruning shears
  • Water
  • Garden gloves


  • Holly Society of America: Knowing and Growing Holly
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Virginia Cut Holly Production
  • U.S. National Arboretum: Deciduous Hollies

Who Can Help

  • National Gardening Association: Holly
Keywords: planting shrubs, holly bush, plant holly

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.