Holly Tree Sorts And Basic Care


Holly bushes are well known as an emblem of Christmas with their spiny leaves and clusters of scarlet berries. But do you know that there are over 500 species within the holly household? The American holly tree grows natively all around the japanese United States. This evergreen tree has many alternative varieties with native habitats all around the world. From Europe to Japan to the Caribbean. 

Holly bushes can add a pop of inexperienced to your winter panorama and they’re wonderful for borders or hedges. Some holly bushes develop moderately massive, whereas there are additionally holly species that stay on the smaller facet or dwarf measurement. Because these bushes develop year-round additionally they present cowl and meals sources throughout the winter for a lot of birds and different wild animals. Numerous species of holly bushes are dioecious, which means that you will want to have each feminine and male vegetation for cross-pollination for the feminine vegetation to supply berries. 

Many species share related wants and administration, and under we’ll focus on a  generalized information to holly tree care. Their crimson berries and inexperienced leaves make them stand out within the panorama, but when a huge holly tree isn’t your factor there are additionally varieties that extra carefully resemble small bushes or moderately holly bushes. 

Quick Care Guide

The American holly tree (Ilex opaca) is widespread within the japanese US. Source: steveburt1947
Common Name Holly
Scientific Name Ilex
Family Aquifoliaceae
Height & Spread 3-25 ft huge relying on the range and the most important varieties can develop as much as 50 ft tall
Light Full solar however can tolerate partial shade
Soil Loamy, well-draining, barely acidic
Water 2 inches of water per week
Pests & Diseases Root-knot nematodes, leaf scorch, backbone spot

All About Holly Trees

Holly bushes are made up of over 500 species within the Ilex household. American holly bushes and European holly are essentially the most extensively recognizable holly species attributable to their affiliation with Christmas Time decorations and traditions. European holly, Ilex aquifolium, is assumed to have derived its identify from the Latin phrase acrifolium, which accurately interprets to “sharp leaf.” 

There are native species in many alternative climates from tropics to subtropics, however they’re most generally distributed in temperate zones worldwide. Below we’ll focus on completely different sorts of holly and their native ranges. Holly bushes are perennial evergreens which makes them an incredible alternative for growers in Northern climates who want to maintain some greenery round within the wintertime. Generally, the leaves are darkish inexperienced with a shiny and leathery texture. They are sometimes additionally very spiky, nearly serrated in look. 

Most holly species produce tiny white flowers that can bear crimson berries when correctly pollinated. Though these are sometimes called berries, they aren’t berries in any respect! The crimson fruit is a drupe, which is extra carefully associated to stone fruit, with a single exhausting seed within the middle. Holly requires a low degree of upkeep however would require some pruning in case you want to management its form and development behavior. 

Holly Tree Varieties

European holly
European holly (Ilex aquifolium) is what most individuals consider as holly. Source: nordique

American holly, Ilex opaca, has a local vary within the japanese United States alongside the coast from Massachusetts to as far south as Florida and west to Missouri and japanese Texas. American holly grows greatest in USDA hardiness zones 5-9 and is chilly hardy down to twenty levels Fahrenheit. It is most simply identifiable by its vibrant crimson berries that develop in clusters on the leaf axis. Ilex opaca additionally has the basic spiny leaves that many hollies additionally possess. This native holly is a standard sight within the southeastern United States.

European holly (Ilex aquifolium), additionally known as English holly, is mostly the kind of holly that’s depicted in Christmas decorations in a lot of England and North America. You might have heard the favored Christmas carol, Deck The Halls, during which you’re inspired to herald boughs of holly. This evergreen winterberry can also be generally used as an in-home ornament alongside mistletoe. In Celtic mythology, The Holly King is the wintertime counterpart to {the summertime} Oak King. Their infinite battle ends in the fluctuation of seasons. 

Japanese holly, Ilex crenata, is extra compact than American holly bushes with a variety of 6-10 ft tall and huge. Because of their smaller measurement, they make a superb alternative for borders or hedges. These holly bushes have extra of a shrub-like look moderately than a tree and are typically known as box-leaved holly. This selection is native to Japan and different areas of southeast Asia. 

Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta, is often known as horned holly which is native to China and japanese Korea. It has since been launched to the United States and is taken into account to be invasive in southern states equivalent to Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. Chinese holly is taken into account to be the fastest-growing holly and would require common pruning to include its development and form. They are identifiable by their darkish inexperienced, leathery leaves. 

Dahoon holly, Ilex cassine, has a local vary that begins within the southeastern states and extends into Mexico and the Caribbean. These holly bushes want hotter climates and do greatest in USDA hardiness zones 7-11. They want swamplands, bogs, and moist soil. This selection is diecious which signifies that it has separate female and male vegetation. The male vegetation will produce small white flowers that can by no means flip into crimson fruit. The feminine vegetation will bear the usual crimson berries. 

Blue holly, Ilex meserveae, is often known as blue princess holly. This selection may be recognized by its purple stems and darkish blue-green foliage. This is a feminine hybrid that can want a male pollinator plant current to supply berries. The male varieties are generally known as the blue prince or blue stallion. Like most different hollies, this shrub supplies year-round greenery. 

Ilex mucronata
Mountain holly (Ilex mucronata) has boring foliage moderately than shiny. Source: Adam Balzer

Mountain holly, Ilex mucronata, often known as catberry. The foliage on this selection is boring and doesn’t have the leathery leaves that different varieties are recognized for. This selection is native to the northeastern United States and as far north as Newfoundland and west into Minnesota. It is the host plant of the Columbia silkmoth caterpillars which might be present in Maine. These holly vegetation want USDA zones 4-9.

Tarajo holly, Ilex latifolia, is one other selection that’s native to Japan and southeastern China. It has tight clusters of very tiny crimson berries. These bushes have leaves with a pale yellow-green underside and are typically used as decorative. The leaves may be brewed in scorching water to make a tea generally known as bitter nail tea. This bitter tea is caffeine-free and is assumed to clear the top and the eyes, for that reason, it has been used to deal with the widespread chilly.

Longstalked holly, Ilex pedunculosa, is native to China, Taiwan, and Japan. It is known as a lanky shrub and may be mistaken for a vine due to its tall, skinny development behavior. It will get its identify from the lengthy skinny peduncle, which is the stalk between the primary department and the flowers. This selection can also be significantly cold-hardy. 

Many of us are acquainted with the yerba mate that strains the grocery retailer cabinets, both in dried tea type or as an ingredient in canned vitality drinks. But do you know that yerba mate is derived from dried holly tree leaves? Yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis, is a spread that comprises caffeine and is used to make tea in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil and has since develop into extensively obtainable around the globe. 

Yaupon is one other beverage that was usually made as a conventional tribal tea amongst tribes within the southern United States. It originates from the yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, and is one among solely two vegetation native to North America recognized to include caffeine. Yaupon tea is step by step gaining popularity, and this holly grows all through the southeastern United States.


Yaupon holly tree
Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is likely one of the solely caffeinated US native vegetation. Source: kewing

Since there are such a lot of several types of holly, we’ll focus on the overall care pointers under. Certain varieties, nonetheless, might have barely completely different wants. Always seek the advice of the nursery for tips about the precise selection that you just intend to buy. 

Sun and Temperature

Holly bushes want full solar, however may even tolerate partial shade. Because the holly plant can develop very tall it’s greatest to plant them on the north facet of your backyard so that they gained’t be shaded out by different bushes, nor will they shade out smaller vegetation close to them. Since there are such a lot of completely different sorts of holly, there’s a selection for nearly each USDA rising zone. There are cold-hardy varieties that may be grown in zones 3-7 and extra heat-tolerant varieties that may be grown in zones 7-above. There are varieties of holly which have native ranges extending into Mexico and different varieties that also have habitats as far north as Canada. 

Water and Humidity

Holly bushes don’t require an excessive amount of in the way in which of water aside from when they’re first getting established. In the primary few weeks after planting be sure you water your holly deeply no less than as soon as every week. Once the holly is established then watering may be in the reduction of. Most hollies are fairly drought-tolerant and may dry out utterly between waterings. Leaving a soaker hose on the base of the tree and utterly saturating the foundation ball is the easiest way to water holly throughout particularly dry durations throughout the summer time. These bushes is not going to want water throughout the winter and can obtain a lot of the moisture that they want from snowfall.  


Hollies want loamy, well-draining, barely acidic soil with a ph between 5-6. They will tolerate poorer soil high quality, however you could not get flowers and due to this fact no berries. A soil check to find out the ph is a good suggestion if the berries are your aim and if the soil is just too fundamental then it could simply be amended with a soil acidifier. 


It’s greatest to fertilize holly bushes within the mid-spring quickly after the chilly climate of winter has lastly handed and the bushes are about to start placing on new development. These vegetation love any kind of slow-release fertilizer formulated for acid-loving vegetation. Generally, these fertilizers are formulated for blueberries and/or hydrangeas that are additionally acid-loving vegetation. 


Holly bushes do require pruning of their lifetime to keep up their general form, particularly in case you’re utilizing them as a hedge. They are typically slow-growing and most solely want pruning each 2-3 years. It’s greatest to do pruning in the direction of the top of the rising season in August or September simply earlier than the autumn/winter when the general development fee will sluggish to a cease. 


Holly may be grown from seed collected from the holly berries however will take a while to succeed in a measurement that may be transplanted into the panorama. They may also be propagated from cuttings which can measurement up a lot quicker. Take cuttings when doing all your common end-of-the-season pruning and dip them in rooting hormone, then place them into potting soil. Water nicely till roots are established. These cuttings may be grown indoors over winter after which will likely be able to plant out within the spring. 


Japanese holly
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is a bushing holly selection. Source: Mom the Barbarian

Holly is taken into account to be a low-maintenance plant because it has only a few pests and illness points and is straightforward by way of common care necessities. There are some things to be looking out for that we’ll focus on under. 

Growing Problems

Leaf scorch may be recognized by the looks of round tan spots that happen in early spring and summer time. This may be attributable to the formation of recent leaves throughout cool and damp climate. This is usually out of your management attributable to out of doors climate situations, nonetheless, it may be prevented by not starting to water your holly once more till mid-spring and avoiding wetting the foliage. Using a soaker hose on the base of this plant for watering will assist forestall this rising drawback. 


Holly has little to no pests, however root knot nematodes have been recognized to trigger points. They are likely to assault the foundation ball and the indications of a nematode infestation will current as yellowing leaves, stunted development, and lifeless areas of the foundation system. An evaluation of the soil surrounding the roots will should be completed to verify the presence of nematodes. If the plant is nicely cared for and wholesome then typically talking the presence of nematodes shouldn’t trigger any long-term points. 


Spine spot will seem like pinhead-sized spots on the leaves surrounded by a purple halo. This challenge will seem in late winter after a lot development has been placed on throughout the spring and summer time. It was as soon as thought to have been attributable to the spiky leaves poking themselves, however it’s really attributable to ovipositing of sure bugs. Ovipositing happens when an insect deposits an egg onto the floor of the leaf. This challenge is normally solely beauty and doesn’t trigger any long-term hurt to your holly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Ilex paraguariensis
Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is well-known as an energy-boosting drink. Source: Dick Culbert

Q: What is a holly tree good for?

A: Most hollies are evergreen bushes that add lovely greenery to your winter panorama. They additionally present helpful cowl for animals and birds throughout winter when different vegetation don’t have foliage to guard them from the weather. 

Q: How large does a holly tree get?

A: The largest varieties can develop to be 50 ft tall and 25-30 ft huge. However, there are additionally dwarf varieties and holly bushes that stay a lot smaller. 

Q: Are holly bushes or bushes?

A: Both! There are over 500 species within the Ilex household together with shrubs, evergreen bushes, bushes, and deciduous bushes. 

Q: What birds nest in holly bushes?

A: Many birds are interested in holly bushes, however mostly American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, Hermit Thrush, and Cedar Waxwings.

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