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How to Care for English Holly Plants

By Karen Carter ; Updated September 21, 2017

English holly is a common holly tree that can grow up to 60 ft. high. White flowers bloom in the late spring amid shiny evergreen leaves edged with spines. In the late fall and into the winter, English holly develops bright red berries. English holly plants can last up to 150 years.

Plant male and female English holly plants within 30 to 40 feet of each other. Holly plants are dioecious, which means a female and a male plant must be planted near each other or they will not bear fruit. A good ratio for English holly plants is one male plant for every five female plants.

Prune back all the other trees and shrubs around the English holly to ensure that the plants receive plenty of sunlight. Holly plants will tolerate shade, but they will not produce very many berries and will become spindly.

Water English holly plants on a regular schedule. Holly needs moist, well-draining soil. When the soil dries out during the summer and fall, soak the area around the roots.

Fertilize English holly plants once in the spring and again in the fall. This will help maintain healthy plant growth throughout the growing season.

Prune English holly back in December. This will help them keep their form as well as supply you with clippings to use for holiday decorations. English holly will grow bushier when pinched back.

Mulch the holly plants with 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch. The best time to do this is right after fertilizing. The mulch will help keep the soil moist and will act as long-release fertilizer as it breaks down.


Things You Will Need

  • English holly plants
  • Pruning shears
  • Fertilizer
  • Organic mulch


  • Wear leather gloves and long sleeves when pruning to protect your skin from the sharp, thorny leaves.
  • Plant new English holly plants in a sheltered area. Young plants can be affected by drying out and wind damage if planted in an exposed site.


  • English holly leaves and berries are poisonous, so keep small children and pets away from the plants. Ingestion of holly causes extreme nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Keep your English holly plants under control. They are considered highly invasive in the Pacific Northwest and will push out native trees from their natural habitat.
  • Pests like leaf miners, scale, bud moths and red mites tend to infest English holly plants. Treat your holly with insecticidal soap and remove and destroy the infected leaves.

About the Author


Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.