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How to Care for Dwarf Holly Shrubs

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017

The dwarf holly (Ilex crenata), also known as the Japanese holly, is a slow-growing, compact shrub that usually reaches just 2 feet tall and 5 feet wide, but can grow up to 8 feet tall and wide. Dwarf hollies are rounded, broadleaf evergreen shrubs that grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8, withstanding minimum winter temperatures of -10 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit. Dwarf hollies have small, glossy green leaves with tiny white flowers blooming in spring or early summer, followed by blue berry-like fruits. Growing and caring for dwarf holly shrubs is easy.

Select a planting location for your dwarf holly shrubs that’s in full to partial sunlight. Ensure that the soil is well-draining and won’t become waterlogged or compacted.

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around your dwarf holly shrubs to help retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay. Add mulch as needed each year in the spring.

Water your dwarf hollies deeply once or twice a week throughout the growing season to supplement rainfall. Water the shrubs to soak the soil around the root zone and don’t allow the soil to dry out completely.

Feed your dwarf holly shrubs once each year in early spring with a slow-release, complete fertilizer made for evergreen shrubs. Follow the application and dosage instructions on the label.

Prune your dwarf holly shrubs anytime of year, removing any dead or damaged growth. Thin out the branches once each year to allow adequate air circulation and light to penetrate throughout the shrub.


Things You Will Need

  • Organic mulch
  • Garden hose
  • Complete evergreen fertilizer, slow-release
  • Pruning shears


  • If you live in a colder climate, select a dwarf holly variety that is hardy enough to withstand your winter temperatures. Spread an extra 3 to 4 inches of bark mulch around the base of your dwarf hollies in the fall to protect the roots from freezing.


  • Watch out for iron deficiencies in your dwarf holly shrubs, which can cause yellowed and dying foliage. Iron deficiencies can occur when the soil pH is too alkaline for your evergreen shrubs, so you can spread some spent coffee grounds onto the soil around your hollies or apply a fertilizer for acid-loving plants.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.