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How to Care for a Holly Plant

By Lucinda Gunnin ; Updated September 21, 2017

A favorite of the holiday season, holly plants come in literally hundreds of species. These can range in height from 6-inch-tall shrubs to towering 70-foot-tall trees. The version that most people are familiar with is the American holly, as it is the variety most often used in Christmas decorations around the United States. In most cases, you can take a few simple steps when caring for the great majority of holly plants available. This will ensure that you are getting the best out of your gardening endeavors.

Plant male and female holly plants near each other. As holly plants are dioecious in nature, they need both male and female plants in roughly the same area--generally within about 50 feet of one another--in order to bear fruit. Generally only one male holly plant is needed for every five female holly plants. Your local nursery will be able to identify male and female holly plants for you.

Cut back other vegetation in the area to ensure that the holly plants are getting plenty of sunlight. While holly plants can tolerate some amount of shade, this will cause them to under-produce and your plants will have less berries. Full sunlight exposure is best for holly plants.

Use a slow-release fertilizer once a year to feed your holly plants. Make sure to follow the directions on the package for the type of fertilizer being used so as not to over-fertilize your holly plant.

Water your holly plant on a regular schedule. Holly plants thrive in moist, well draining soil. If the soil is allowed to dry out, the holly plant will begin to suffer and will not produce at peak efficiency.

Prune your holly plants in December while they are hibernating. This will cause the least amount of shock to the plant and will make sure it is ready for the new growth season come the spring.


Things You Will Need

  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Pruning shears

About the Author


Lucinda Gunnin began writing in 1988 for the “Milford Times." Her work has appeared in “Illinois Issues” and dozens more newspapers, magazines and online outlets. Gunnin holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Adams State College and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.