female holly bush with berries

Plant Profile: Hollies

Hollies are very versatile plants that can range anywhere from only a foot high, to trees that are 70 feet tall. In ancient times, hollies were used to decorate statues of Saturn (the Roman god of the harvest), to providing medieval protection from evil spirits, and of course decorating our houses at Christmas time with them.

In Pennsylvania, hollies will have no problem growing. They are most hardy in regions 5 and 6, and in Southeast Pennsylvania we are zone 6. Zone 5 would be the Lehigh County and above.

Gender Of The Holly

When you think of hollies, you think of the bright white flowers, red berries, and the shiny prickly leaves. The gender of the holly actually plays a big role in the appearance of the plant. Female hollies will produce berries as long as they are pollinated by a bee who bring seed from a nearby male holly.

Holly Maintenance

These plants do not require regular pruning or trimming, but if you want to keep them small, or to prevent them from overcrowding, pruning is going to be required. Holly bushes are very low maintenance as well, and typically do not need to be watered unless we are in a dry spell.

We always recommend mulch for our clients for a variety of reasons. Hollies are no exception. They have a shallow root system which makes them susceptible to rot and freeze thaw damage in the winter. Mulch not only helps prevent this, but once it decomposes it adds nutrients back into the soil so fertilizer is unnecessary. Also, who doesn’t like the way a fresh garden bed of mulch looks?

How To Plant Hollies

The holly bush you purchase is most likely going to be in a pot. The size of the pot should not matter, but most likely it’s going to be in a three gallon pot. Find the spot you wish to have your holly planted, and make sure it has adequate sunlight and good drainage. All good landscapes start with knowing what your plants need.

  1. Dig a hole in the ground that is about 3 inches wider than the diameter of the holly. Do not dig the hole too deep; allow the holly to sit about one or two inches above the soil line.
  2. Remove the holly from the container and using a shovel or spade, slice about 3 or four inserts into the root ball. Don’t cut the ball in half, just about one or two inches deep. This will prevent the roots from wrapping in a circle and choking itself out. Cutting these inserts will let the ball branch out into the garden.
  3. Back fill the holly. (Fill in the space around the plant)
  4. Sprinkle compost or manure around the bush to help with water retention.
  5. Water.
  6. Add mulch around the base.

We hope you enjoyed our post on holly plant care! Visit our blog for more information on other plants and “how to’s“.