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How to Plant Male & Female Holly Bushes

By Kim Hoyum ; Updated September 21, 2017
A holly's characteristic red berries can only be produced on female hollies when they've been pollinated by males.

For hollies to cross-pollinate and bear fruit, male and female holly bushes must be planted near each other. The male and female are slightly different and should be clearly labeled when the seedlings are acquired. Male plants bear no fruit but can pollinate several female trees. There are several species of holly, and males and females of the same species are needed to get fruit.

Test the soil where you want to plant holly before to be sure there is a balance of nutrients present in the soil and that it has a neutral pH.

Plant hollies in the spring or fall in moist, well-drained soil with full sun to light shade.

Space hollies 5 to 25 feet apart, depending on their mature size. Dig holes for each seedling that are just as deep as the root ball but about two to three times as wide in diameter. Set aside the removed soil.

Set the plants in the holes. Plant one male holly for every 10 or so female plants and within 30 feet or so of the females. Alternately, plant hollies in measured rows, making every third one or so male, and offset males in neighboring rows.

Add any amendments to the soil as recommended by the soil test. Water well and allow for some settling. Fill the hole with the rest of soil and water again.

Add about a half-gallon of compost in a ring around the base of each tree. Spread it evenly when the new hollies are settled in. Add a ring of mulch about 2 inches thick on top of the compost and spread evenly to help conserve water and nutrients. Keep the mulch at least 3 inches from the tree trunk to discourage rot or mold.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil testing kit
  • Male holly seedlings
  • Female holly seedlings
  • Spade
  • Compost
  • Lime or peat moss, if needed
  • Mulch


  • Acidic or wet soils are preferred by some holly varieties. Check the plants' requirements.
  • Many holly grove owners find success in planting a ring of females around a central male, then adding other males and females on another outer ring.

About the Author


Kim Hoyum is a Michigan-based freelance writer. She has been a proofreader, writer, reporter and editor at monthly, weekly and daily publications for five years. She has a Bachelor of Science in writing and minor in journalism from Northern Michigan University.