How to Plant and Grow Holly Bushes
Plant Guide

How to Plant and Grow Holly Bushes


There are possibly no more well-known plants than Holly Bushes. The vibrant berries on these ornamental shrubs have been used as holiday décor for hundreds of years and are often seen worldwide in wreaths and holiday table decorations. Not all holly varieties produce the plump red berries we are all accustomed to seeing.

Some varieties of holly produce berries of golden-yellow, and some have black berries. The Black berried types are typically not grown for their berries but rather their evergreen foliage which can be compared to boxwoods. Holly bushes are available in deciduous and evergreen types, and both types are available as male and female plants. Males are needed for berry production.

More and more gardeners realize that landscapes don't have to be a source of beauty outdoors. Gardeners are starting to learn that the plants in our yards can also be a source of decorations indoors. Holly shrubs are one of the best examples of this. During the winter months, when holly berries are one of the prominent features in the landscape, they can also be cut and enjoyed indoors.

Ground Rules

 Lighting Guide


Hollies prefer full sun to partial shade and the most prolific berry production is on plants in full sun. Full Sun means the plant will receive at least six to eight hours of bright sunlight per day.

 Watering Guide


Blue Hollies and Japanese Hollies prefer well-drained soil that does not stay constantly wet. Winterberry and Inkberry hollies prefer their soil a little on the wet side and can be seen growing in swampy soil. Either type will grow in average garden soil and may require occasional watering during periods of drought.

 Soil Guide


Any average garden soil will do for all types of holly bushes.

 Food Guide


Holly plants are one of the few groups of plants that have had a fertilizer developed specifically for them. Holly plants prefer an acidic environment and Espoma has developed a fertilizer that is the perfect blend of acidity and nutrients. Espoma Holly-tone provides all the nutrients and acidity that hollies require in one simple package.

Feed hollies in the spring before they begin to grow and again about midway thru summer as berry production begins.

 Toxicity Guide


The berries of hollies are toxic to pets and children. Swallowing holly berries can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and drowsiness. Holly leaves may also cause similar symptoms if eaten but, because they are prickly, children and pets usually leave them alone.

 Mulch Guide


Maintain 3 inches of mulch in your landscape bed to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Keep the mulch line about 2 inches from the base of your plant to prevent stem rot.

Planting Process

  1. Carefully unbox your new plant, place it outdoors in a shaded area, water thoroughly while still in a nursery pot. Keep in this location for a day or two to let it acclimate to its new home.
  2. Choose a location based on light requirements, soil type, and mature size of the plant.
  3. Prepare the soil: dig a planting hole twice as wide as the root ball but not deeper. The plant’s crown should be ground level.
  4. Place your holly bush in the center of the hole and backfill with a 50/50 combination of your existing soil and topsoil or organic compost. You should still be able to see the soil line of the original pot when you are finished planting.
  5. Water deeply 3 times a week while roots are being established. Thereafter, water to keep the soil moist and according to your climate conditions.
  6. Lightly feed with a chemical or organic fertilizer once or twice in early spring. Do not fertilize after August when your plant prepares for dormancy.Generally, you should water your new plant 2 or 3 times a week during its growing season. In the peak of summer, a slow and steady trickle is ideal so the water permeates deeper, enabling the root system to grow stronger. A Treegator watering bag is the perfect, no-hassle way to continuously water your holly bush in the summer.

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