Holly Plant Facts

Written by kate beck
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Holly Plant Facts
Prickly leaves and red berries identify holly plants. (holly image by david purday from Fotolia.com)

Holly plants are frequently associated with the holiday season, but these plants make an easy addition to any landscape. Hollies tolerate most conditions and require very little routine care. If you need a colourful addition around your home, consider using a holly plant. Evaluate the main facts about these plants to determine if a holly is the right choice for you.


Holly plants can be male or female. You can identify a female plant by the bright red berries, produced only if a male plant is located nearby. Sex determination is also noted by the look of the flower. Typically, leaves have pointed, sharp edges, and many varieties of holly plants are evergreen, meaning they do not lose their leaves. Other varieties lose their leaves after the growing season. Depending on the variety, these holly plants can grow from 6 feet to 40 feet tall.


These plants prefer to have distance between them and other plants, so give at least 5 feet in diameter around the holly plant to aid in air circulation. This allows leaves to dry quickly and prevents rot. Spread mulch around the base of the plant keep in moisture, and be sure to water the plant regularly in hot summer months. For the best berry production, prune your holly plant in the spring. No other pruning or trimming is necessary unless you prefer neat hedges in your landscape.


Garden pests have the potential to harm holly plants. Southern red mites live on the backside of leaves. These mites are "reddish brown and less that 1/50 inch long," according to Clemson University. Southern red mites feed off leaves, resulting in discolouration of leaves. Leafminers, immature fly larvae, commonly damage holly plants as well. Look for larvae approximately 1/16 inch in length. These pests drill into leaves and cause blotching on the leaf surface. Control mites and leafminers by spraying with insecticides or horticulture oils.


Holly plants do not have many problems with disease. If problems do occur, the diseases are generally leaf spots and leaf blight. Fungi cause leaf spots, which makes the holly leaves unsightly. Despite the appearance, no serious damage occurs. Damaged leaves fall, and if the plant is treated with fungicide, new leaves should grow back with no long term problems to the plant. Leaf spots are typically the result of long rainy seasons, causing the leaves to stay wet for long periods of time. Leaf blight occurs during hot, humid weather, resulting in brown spots that gradually spread out along the base of the leaves. Fungicides should also help control blight.


Bright, red berries on a holly plant will catch a child's eye, but, despite their beauty, the berries are poisonous. Ingesting three or more of these berries may cause severe vomiting and nausea. Diarrhoea may also occur, as well as drowsiness. If you have young children, a holly plant may not be the best choice for your landscape.

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