How to care for a holly bush

Holly bushes require the planting of both a male and female plant to produce berries. Slow growing and preferring full sun and well-drained soil, holly bushes come in both deciduous and broadleaved evergreen varieties. Sizes vary as well; some shrubs grow no larger than 90 cm (3 feet) tall and other varieties reach a lofty 9 metres (30 feet). The preferred soil pH of holly bushes is between 5.0 and 6.0; most holly bushes will turn yellow or drop their berries if the soil pH rises any higher than 7.0. Low maintenance, most holly bushes require little maintenance after planting.

Plant holly bushes at a distances of at least 1.5 metres (5 feet). The nursery tag will provide the planting information at the time of purchase. Planting the holly bushes at appropriate distances apart will ensure that their roots have plenty of room for growth.

Provide the holly bush with plenty of water during its first growing season. Once the holly tree is established, watering will only be necessary during times of drought. Use a soaker hose to provide deep watering at a rate of 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water per week.

Apply a 5 cm (2 inch) layer of mulch under the canopy of the holly bush. Mulching with straw or bark chips will help to reduce weed growth, protect the root system during the cold of winter and heat of summer and also help with water retention.

Nourish holly bushes with a fertiliser specifically designed for acid-loving plants. Apply the fertiliser according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once a year, sprinkle a 2.5 cm (1 inch) layer of coffee grounds over the soil around the holly bushes for additional nourishment.

Prune holly bushes in the autumn or late winter to encourage spring growth. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to remove dead or damaged foliage. Thin holly bushes by removing outer stems, leaving the inner stems intact.


If your holly bushes don't thrive, test the soil. A soil pH testing kit from a garden centre or nursery will help to determine the acidity of the soil. You will need to amend the soil with lime if the pH reading measures lower than 5.0. Amend with peat moss for soil readings above 6.0. Add the required amendment according to label instructions.

Keep the mulch at least 7.5 cm (3 inches) away from the main trunk of the holly bushes to help prevent pest infestations.


Do not put your hose away during the winter. Holly bushes benefit from winter watering when the ground is not frozen and when the winter season offers little precipitation. Supply just enough water to moisten the soil 2.5 cm (1 inch) down during a winter dry spell.

Things You'll Need

  • Soaker hose
  • Mulch
  • Fertiliser
  • Coffee grounds
  • Pruning shears
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About the Author

Jonae Fredericks started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jonae Fredericks is a certified paraeducator, presently working in the public education system.