How to Prune Holly Hedges

Updated November 21, 2016

Holly bushes are well-known for their dangling berries and lush, dark green foliage. The bush reaches its peak of popularity in the winter, when many people choose to use the bush for decoration during Christmas. Caring for a holly requires proper sunlight and water distribution; both determined by the quality of pruning performed. Pruning a holly is necessary to remove damage limbs, and give an attractive appearance to your landscape.

Cut away discoloured, weather damaged or diseased branches first. Removal of these branches is required as they may endanger the health of the bush. Use the pruning shears to cut a clean slice into the limb where it joins a primary, larger branch. Do not cut into the primary branch when cutting out the limb. This may cause infection and/or decay.

Cut out branches that are rubbing onto a larger branch. Use the pruning shears to cut away the limb just 1/2" above where a new bud has formed. A cut too close to a new bud, as the Department of Horticultural Sciences describes, will cause stress and possibly kill the bud. You may also cut just above the connection of a primary branch.

Cut away limbs that are overcrowded and clustered, preventing proper nutrient filtration. The bush should be symmetrical and evenly spaced to receive enough sunlight and water. Cut away branches that are growing straight across, or straight up from, the bush. Leave 45 degree angled branches to continue growing, as the Department of Horticultural Sciences explains.


Pruning in the winter is beneficial for your bush's health, and you can use your clippings to add decor to your home, explains Use the pruning shears as often as possible. Using hedge trimmers will not open up the inner branches and give them better light or air circulation. Without these elements, the bush has no betterment from hedge pruning. Hedge trimmers are only for shaping, not for use in winter preparation.


Wear gloves to protect your hands from insects and other pests. Keep the shears clean adn sharp for an easy cut. A careless, ragged cut to a limb may lead to infection and decay.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Gloves
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