Holly Care

  1. Holly: Pruning for Hedges and Screens

    Holly are popularly used as sheared formal hedges

    Hollies are Popularly Used as Dense Sheared Formal Hedges

    Nature Hills Nursery 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 stay on the evergreen varieties year-round. These elegant plants can be used for screening and sheared formal hedges with the added bonus of  cheerful fruit. Most of these plants have sharp pointed leaves that can be sharp so be careful

    Sky Pencil Holly In a Loose Screen Sky Pencil Holly


    Planning 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 and the size of the area being filled. 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 are planting your new plants from Nature Hills that will be delivered in #3 containers, and not at the fully mature size that they will become. You must also 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. Consider how the bottoms of the hedge will mesh together as an older hedge as well. You may decide you do not want to wait years for the hedge to become a solid screen. In that case you will want to plan on planting them closer together. If you plant your Castle Wall Holly plant every 3 feet 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 there is 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. The plants that do not 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.

    Carissa Holly In a Loose HedgeCarissa Holly is  a Lower Density Hedge


    Pruning Your Hedge   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 want them to get established quickly, so minimal pruning is required. 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.     When you do shear these plants into hedges, it is very important to be sure the bottom of the plants are left wider than the topsBy making sure the bottoms of the plants are trimmed wider, the bottom of the plants do not get shaded out. This will ensure that the plants will always have leaves to the ground and that the 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.  


    Evergreen Hollies   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 selections should also be pruned in early summer for the same reason, and to maintain the rounded habit either sheared more formally or informally.    Some of the larger evergreen varieties include Nellie Stevens, Castle Spire, Sky Pencil, Sky Pointer, Acadiana, Oakland and Oakleaf. These make a 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 for great outdoor decorating for the holiday season.

     


    Berry Nice Holly Berries In the Winter

    Berry Nice Holly's Berries In the Winter 


    Deciduous Hollies    Deciduous type Holly plants lose their leaves in fall. That means they are naked in the winter except for the fruit display on the female plants. These plants are large growers and offer no screening during the winter months. Many people use them in front of evergreens to show off that incredible fruit display. These plants are not a good candidate for sheared hedges. They work best when allowed to grow more naturally by not reducing the size when trimming back. These plants are best pruned by removing the oldest stems out to the ground and allowing the newer, younger shoots to grow and develop. This method of pruning is called renewal pruning. Use these deciduous plants for larger screening, or along water logged areas and natural sites for a more natural look. 

    * Evergreen Holly plants are elegant and very versatile in the landscape
    * Deciduous Holly plants are excellent stars in the winter landscape
    * Adaptable to many soil types and sites
    * Easily acclimates for many uses
    * Beautiful, glossy green leaves on the evergreen types, and the female plants have showy fruit that makes them doubly desirable
    * Even the male plants that don't fruit are extremely elegant and a classic addition to any landscape
    * Many different mature sizes and forms offer endless design options... you can get creative!
    * Shear into formal hedges both large and small, or allow to grow informally for more natural looking hedges and screening
    * You will be ecstatic with the year-round interest in your landscape  

    Check out our selection of holly plants!    

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  2. Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Humans & Animals?

    Holly Close Up Fruit on a Female Holly Shrub


    Wreath Made of Holly Wreath Made of Holly


    Remember there are two different types of Holly plants, the evergreen types, and the deciduous types (the ones that lose their leaves in winter). Most of the Holly plants have separate male plants and female plants, and only the female plants will produce the berries. The berries are very showy, and on most of the varieties produce red fruits, but some are blue, black, yellow, or white. The fruit production makes the plants very desirable and attractive to wildlife and people or children. Cut branches are many times used indoors for holiday and winter decorations. Holly branches are perfect indoors for people with allergies as they do not contain dust, pollen or fragrances. Once indoors, the berries may dry and fall off which may make them available to children or pets to find and sample.


    Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Humans? It has been posted on many sites and written that the leaves, stems and berries may be poisonous to humans. Many of these evergreen types have very sharp spines on the leaves which would deter anyone from probably trying to eat many of them. There have been reports of Indians and early settlers making tea from the leaves and berries in the early years. For humans, the berries will taste bitter and may cause an upset stomach or act as a mild laxative, if enough are ingested. While health benefits of holly are elusive, significant health harms have not been documented.   

    Symptoms Include Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea

    Symptoms Include Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea.  Much of the following information is being taken from an article written by Dick Bir, North Carolina State University, and from the book "Plants That Poison". The berries of all species of Ilex are reported to be poisonous if eaten in quantity (and that is the key here). The toxic principle is ilicin. Although it's not considered to be very poisonous, the attractive red or other colored berries should be considered dangerous to small children -- symptoms listed include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If large quantities of the berries have been ingested, it is suggested vomiting induced followed by activated charcoal, and obviously medical professionals need to be involved as soon as possible. We checked for specific toxicity references from landscape selections and found almost nothing. Therefore, it seems that rather than panicking if holly berries or leaves are ingested, please should remember that fatalities are unknown. If there are poisonous properties, they are frequently overstated. No part of the plant taste good to humans so most would not be interested in eating more after tasting. If you're not watching what your toddlers are eating, you probably have much more to fear from common beverages, condiments and household chemicals than from Hollies in the landscape.  

    Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Dogs, Cats, & Other Pets? What about pets like dogs, cats and horses: are the leaves and berries toxic to these animals? The leaves and berries are of low toxicity to these animals. Again, the taste of the leaves (and in some cases the spines on the leaves) and the berries just do not taste very good and they will probably not eat much of any part of the Holly plants. If these animals were to consume enough, the symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.  

    Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Bird? What about holly plants and songbirds and migratory birds in your yard? Feeding the birds is wildly entertaining and Nature Hills devotes so much of our production to growing so many plants that produce food for wildlife. Creating backyard wildlife habitats has become so popular to attract more songbirds, migratory birds and a whole lot more interesting landscape.

    Planting a good mix of evergreen and deciduous plants that produce food is where to start  and Holly plants are included in that mix to feed the birds.

    Birds Love Berries of Many Kinds Birds love fruit & berries of many different kinds.

    Eastern Red cedar, Arborvitae and American Holly make great cover and protection plants for the birds. Now add plants like Viburnums, Holly, Inkberry, Dogwood, Sumac, Black Chokeberry, Crabapples and Hawthorns and you have yourself the start of a good thing. Depending upon where you live, Cedar waxwings, swallows, bluebirds, robins, chickadees, finches, cardinals will enjoy what you have developed for them. Add a few bird feeders and keep the seed dry and the feeders clean and you will have a lot of visitors. Holly plants are excellent bird feeders and the fruits are very desirable to birds. Some fruits from plants like Viburnums and Holly plants may not be the first fruits to be taken by birds. The birds seem to know what is most desired at different times of the year. Sometimes the fruit on these plants need to hang on and maybe even go through the freeze-thaw cycle to make the fruits more palatable to the birds. You may see a flock of cedar waxwings come through your yard and clean up all the fruit on a tree in a matter of a day or two. Holly berries will not harm the birds feeding on them so do not forget to include them in your backyard wildlife refuge.  

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  3. Pruning Holly Plants: How to for Hedges, Foundation or Screening

    Holly Hedge

    Nature 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 Thorns

    Also, 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.

    Read more »