Holly bushes provide us with year-round beauty, beautiful red berries and the perfect holiday wreath material. If you prune a holly bush periodically, it will maintain its beauty. Because of their timeless foliage, they need a bit of attention from a pair of pruning shears to keep their shape looking as lovely as it did last month. Correct pruning techniques are essential, as improper methods can be detrimental to the plant.
As a rule of thumb it is best to prune during the winter when the plant is dormant. Be sure to research your specific kind of holly bush to see when it is best to prune, as some have a preferred season. For example, the American holly bush should not be heavily pruned in the summer, or else it will produce few berries in the fall. Some should not be pruned at all, such as the Chinese and Yaupon hollies.
Prune the holly bushes to keep their shape, trim them into hedges, or remove unattractive wayward branches. First, remove any obvious dead branches, and then begin from the inside and work your way out. Trim the branches right above new growth or all the way down to the original branch, angling the pruners at a 45 degree angle to the branch. If you are pruning simply for healthy growth, prune in regular intervals to provide new branches with enough space to mature. When pruning hedges, do not cut the lower branches shorter than the top ones. If you have an English holly, do not remove the lower branches; let them be and they will naturally spread out towards the ground. Should you be unsatisfied with the entire bush, cut it back to the ground during the dormant winter season.
When pruning, be sure to wear thick gloves and, if needed, protective glasses. Holly leaves are very prickly and edged with needle-like points, so wear thick, long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from their bite.