Holly is a slow-growing, small to mid-sized evergreen tree. The glossy green leaves set off deep red berries in the winter, making it a classic decoration around the winter holidays. Growing holly from seed is a time-consuming project with germination times ranging from six months to three years. Once the seedlings germinate, growth is slow, averaging 6 feet or less in the first 10 years. Though not the fastest way to propagate holly, seed germination is a viable method for reproducing this winter classic.
Stratify holly seeds to break the dormancy period. Put a 1-inch layer of damp peat moss over the bottom of a zip top bag. Place the holly seeds onto the peat moss and cover them with a second 1-inch layer of damp peat moss.
Seal the bag and store it at 4.44 degrees Celsius for four to five months. The vegetable drawer of the refrigerator works well for stratifying holly seeds. Start the stratification process in late fall or early winter.
Remove the seeds from the chilled area in the spring or early summer. Plant the holly seeds out in a nursery bed in the garden. An area that has deep, loamy soil and full to part shade is ideal. Avoid areas that are prone to periods of standing water during the year.
Plant holly seeds ¾ to 1 inch deep and cover with soil. Keep the area damp with frequent, light water applications.
Place a tomato cage or other wire structure over the seedlings when they emerge to protect the young holly plants from being trampled.
Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost over the seedbed to add nutrients to the soil and encourage strong seedling development. Keep the compost back 2 inches from the young holly plants to avoid smothering them.
Transplant the holly seedlings into their permanent position when they are 12 inches tall. Dig down 12 to 18 inches when transplanting to avoid damaging the taproot. Dig out the root ball 24 inches in diameter.
- USDA Forest Service; Ilex Opaca Ait; H. E. Grelen
- University of Rhode Island Landscape and Horticultural Department; Hollies; Cheryl Cadwell
- University of Florida IFAS Extension Program; Ilex Aquifolium; September 2010
- North Carolina State University; Overcoming Seed Dormancy; Erv Evans and Frank A. Blazich; January 1999