Holly Growing Guide
Ilex aquifolium (European holly), Ilex cornuta (Chinese holly), Ilex opaca (American Christmas holly). Ilex verticillata (American winterberry holly), Ilex vomitoria (yaupon holly), Ilex crenata (Japanese holly), and many Ilex hybrids
Crop Rotation Group
Fertile, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost or other organic matter, with a slightly acidic pH.
Full sun to part shade.
Cold tolerance varies with cultivar, with most hollies hardy to -15°F (-26°C).
Topdress the root zone with a balanced organic fertilizer in spring, and keep plants mulched year-round to protect the plants’ shallow roots.
Single Plants: 6' 6" (2.00m) each way (minimum)
Rows: 6' 6" (2.00m) with 6' 6" (2.00m) row gap (minimum)
Sow and Plant
Set out purchased plants from spring through early summer. Water regularly, and cover the root zone with an organic mulch to keep the soil moist at all times. Once established, hollies are reasonably tolerant of drought. The spacing requirements varies with the type grown, because hollies range in size from compact bushes to small trees. Check plant tags for a plant’s mature width, and double the number for proper spacing.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalized calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.
Visit local nurseries to learn about the best evergreen hollies for your area. With cultivars known for strong berry production, choose mostly female plants with a token male to provide pollen. Species vary in the spininess of the leaves. Some are sharp enough to deter intruders when planted under windows, while Japanese hollies are almost spineless. Consider planting native species for the benefit of insects and birds. The berries of European holly are eaten by more than a dozen species of birds, and the same is true of American holly, which grows into a stately small tree. Though they are not famous for their flowers, when hollies bloom in spring the fragrant blossoms are mobbed by bees and other pollinators.
Gather branches as needed for use in holiday decorations. Cut holly branches last longer when the stems are kept in water.
The stiff, glossy leaves of evergreen holly repel most insects, but new growth can show damage from leaf miners. In stressful summer weather, watch for scale, spider mites and whiteflies. Yellowing leaves often means the soil is not acidic enough for the plants to adequately take up iron.
Planting and Harvesting Calendar
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