How to Care for Your Holly Tree


Holly is an evergreen, or deciduous, tree in the genus Ilex, which includes American holly, Japanese holly and Chinese holly. All types have similar care requirements and the ability to add interest to a winter garden by producing colorful berries and attractive foliage. Holly trees vary in size, from 18 inches to more than 50 feet in height, depending on the variety. Gardeners typically use smaller types as low hedges or foundation plantings, while larger hollies make excellent privacy screens and tall hedges in a home landscape.

Step 1

Plant your holly tree during mid-spring in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. Choose a location that has fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Space holly trees at least 5 to 7 feet apart.

Step 2

Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to the soil surrounding your holly tree to keep the soil moist and cool at all times, and to deter the growth of weeds. Replenish the mulch whenever necessary throughout the year to keep it about 2 inches thick.

Step 3

Water your holly tree once per week to keep the soil slightly moist. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 inches at each application to ensure the root system comes into contact with plenty of moisture. Decrease watering frequency to once every 10 days during winter.

Step 4

Feed the tree during mid-fall to provide a burst of growth the following spring. Use a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer to provide well-rounded nutrition. Apply according to the manufacturer's directions for the best results.

Step 5

Prune your holly tree during winter, just before active growth resumes during spring. Use pruning shears to remove leggy, bare or damaged limbs to increase the appearance and overall health of the plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear gloves when handling holly trees, as the foliage is lined with sharp spines.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Hollies
  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Holly
  • "The Tree Book: A Practical Guide to Selecting and Maintaining the Best Trees for Your Yard and Garden"; Jeff Meyer; 2004
Keywords: holly tree, care for holly, Ilex genus

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