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How to Maintain Holly Bushes & Plants

By Willow Sidhe ; Updated September 21, 2017
Holly berries and foliage.

Hollies comprise a large group of bushes, plants, shrubs and trees in the Ilex genus, all of which are grown for their attractive evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage and colorful, ornamental berries. Most hollies are native to North America, although some originate in areas of Asia. Regardless of type, holly bushes and plants typically require the same care and maintenance. Gardeners value the plants for their ease of care and their many practical uses in the home landscape, including privacy hedges, screens and foundation plantings. Hollies grow from 18 inches in height to more than 50 feet, depending on the variety.

Plant holly bushes in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day for optimal growth and berry production. Ensure the site is comprised of rich, fertile, well-drained soil. Space holly bushes at least 10 to 15 feet apart.

Spread a 3-inch layer of mulch over the ground surrounding holly bushes and plants to keep the soil moist and cool, and to deter the growth of weeds. Start the layer about 3 inches from the base of the plants to reduce the chance of rotting or disease.

Water holly plants once every week during the first two months of growth to help the roots become established. Reduce the watering frequency thereafter to once every two weeks, or once per week during periods of extreme heat.

Feed holly bushes once per year during late fall with an acid-based fertilizer. Apply at the rate recommended by the manufacturer's directions for the best results. Water immediately after applying to release the nutrients into the soil and prevent injuring the roots.

Prune holly bushes and plants during winter to remove any leggy, overgrown, damaged or diseased branches before new growth begins in spring. Use pruning shears to remove the branches at their point of origin to minimize damage to the plants.


Things You Will Need

  • Mulch
  • Acid-based fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • Use a side dressing of organic compost instead of an acid-based fertilizer, if desired.
  • Plant one male holly plant for every five to 10 female holly plants to ensure the flowers are fertilized, or berry production will not occur.

About the 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 Gardenguides.com.