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Pruning Holly Plants…How to for Hedges, Foundation or Screening

Holly HedgeNature Hills offers many evergreen selections of Holly in many forms and sizes. Our nurseries grow many types because they are so desirable in the landscape. Beautiful pointed, serrate, and oak leaf types of foliage that stays on the plant year-round. These elegant plants can be used for screening and sheared formal hedges with bonus of that cheerful fruit. Most of these plants have sharp pointed leaves that can be sharp so be careful.

Holly used as hedges are very popular as small sheared formal hedges, or large sheared formal hedges (always keeping the tops of the hedge narrower than the bottoms).  Also as informal hedges and screening plants.

Let’s briefly discuss planning and planting a hedge for your yard.  Planning your hedge starts with how many plants you are going to need.  The number of plants is determined by the mature size of the plants you are using for your hedge.  Let’s say you are using a Castle Wall Holly variety that gets to be about 6’ tall or more, and spreads about 3-4’ wide.  You first must decide how quickly you want your new hedge to be a solid screen.  If you planted your new plants 3 feet apart, it may take several years for the plants to touch each other.   You may decide you will not take the time to wait for the hedge to become a solid screen.

Holly ThornsAlso, consider how the bottoms of the hedge will mesh together as an older hedge as well.  If you plant your Castle Wall Holly plant every 3’ on center (which means they can spread 1 ½ feet on each side of the center of the plant before each plant will touch the one next to it), it will make a nice hedge in a fairly short period.  Remember that these plants will be wider as they continue to grow and develop and they will start to touch each other.  As a hedge (formal sheared hedges or informal, untrimmed hedges) you do want these plants to touch each other.  They will grow together with the plant on either side of them – and that is good and no reason to prevent that from happening.

We have seen people trim the plants back into individuals that do not touch and that is not the goal here.  Allow the plants to touch and you will see that what happens is the hedges really make three two sided and a top.  That is the desired outcome.  The plants that do touch will not have foliage where they grow together but it is not needed, it is needed on both sides and the top so once you get past that, you will see what it is supposed to look like.

The first year or two, very little pruning will be required, only snipping off any tips that our out of the range of the rest of the plants.  You do want them to get established quickly so minimal pruning is required but let the plants produce lots of new leaves as they are making new food and it will establish the plants sooner than if you sheared them back at the start.

Whenever you do shear these plants into hedges it is very important to be sure the bottom of the plants are left wider than the tops.

proper-pruning

By always making sure the bottoms of the plants are trimmed wider, the plants do not get shaded out, and the plants will always have leaves to the ground and the plants will always look best.  This is not only true for a Holly hedge, but for all hedging plants whether they are deciduous or evergreen plants.  Pruning should start with hedging materials almost as soon as you plant them.

Carissa Holly Hedge

Some of these larger growers include Nellie Stevens, Castle Spire, Sky Pencil, Sky Pointer, Acadiana, Oakland and Oakleaf.  Large, robust growing, classy backdrop to a shrub or perennial border, or outstanding screening or hedge plants.  Sky Pencil and Sky Pointer are tall and super skinny and have a unique look to them.  These varieties are excellent hedges that need little if any pruning unless you want to maintain them at a specific height.  The other great thing you can do with these varieties is to shear them as single specimen plants into a nice pyramidal “Christmas tree” shape great for decorating during the holiday season.

Pruning should be done on evergreen Holly plants in early summer simply because the new growth that happens after you prune will allow enough time for that new grow to harden off before winter.  The technique for pruning depends upon how the plants are being used – formal hedging, foundation, or screening.  Hedge pruning is described above, keeping the bottoms wider than the tops.  The rounded, dwarf selectins should also be pruned in early summer for the same reason, and to maintain the rounded habit either sheared more formally or informally.

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9910 N. 48th Street, Suite 200 Omaha, NE 68152

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