Holly belongs to the genus Ilex, which contains more than 400 different species of large shrubs and small trees, including Chinese, American, Japanese and English holly. These plants offer a diverse range of characteristics, though most produce evergreen foliage, ornamental berries and small, inconspicuous flowers. Small varieties of holly work best as low hedges or foundation plantings, while larger varieties perform best as tall hedges or privacy screens. Even as specimen plants, holly trees shine in the home landscape, providing color and interest throughout the winter months with minimal maintenance.
Plant your holly tree during mid-spring after the soil has warmed to a workable temperature. Choose a planting location that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. Apply a 2-inch layer of compost over the planting site, and use a garden tiller to incorporate the material into the soil before planting.
Dig a hole at the planting site of equal depth and twice as wide as the tree's rootball. Insert the roots into the hole and gently backfill with soil, leaving the top of the crown exposed. Water lightly to compact the soil and collapse any air pockets.
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the ground, surrounding the holly tree to improve the soil's moisture retention and deter the growth of competitive weeds. Allow about 3 inches between the plant's crown and the mulch to prevent rotting caused by poor air circulation.
Water holly trees once every five to seven days during the spring and summer to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Soak the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches at each application to ensure the plant receives adequate moisture.
Feed your holly tree once per year during early fall using an acid-based plant fertilizer. Apply according to the directions on the package for best results. Water lightly before and after applying the fertilizer to reduce the risk of root burn or injury.
Prune during winter to promote aesthetic appeal and keep the tree growing in a compact, bushy habit. Remove damaged, dead and diseased branches, using pruning shears, and cut back any excessively long growth. Do not remove more than one-third of the tree's growth during any one year, as it may not recover from such a severe pruning.