Planting a holly tree can be a seamless, successful procedure providing that research is done in advance of planting to determine the best growing environment for a holly tree and that the site is prepared to the holly tree's specifications. There are several varietals of the holly tree, or Ilex opaca, and many varietals require the presence of both a male and a female holly in order for the holly tree to be able to produce its signature red berries. For this reason, holly trees are often planted in stands or clusters rather than as a standalone specimen or accent planting. Learn from experts how to plant and care for a holly tree in your own home garden or landscape setting.
The holly tree is an evergreen broadleaf tree that grows well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 8. Common landscaping choices that involve a holly tree include privacy screens, hedge plantings, grouped specimen plantings, and protective plantings. The holly tree foliage and berries are also popular choices for fall and winter holiday decorations.
The holly tree prefers loamy, sandy moist soil with excellent drainage and a pH of between 3.5 and 6.0. Care must be taken to ensure adequate space as mature holly trees can reach 50 feet high by 40 feet wide depending on the varietal. Additionally, holly trees do not fare well when exposed to the hottest summer sunlight, so placing them in a location that receives some afternoon shelter and shade is ideal. Due to the great number of different holly varietals, it can be helpful to consult a local gardening association or nursery to determine the best type of holly for growing in your area.
The best time to plant a holly tree is in the early spring after the last frost has passed but before summer's heat arrives. Holly trees sometimes will drop their leaves at the shock of planting or transplanting, and this is not behavior to worry about overmuch, although it is wise to cut back on watering somewhat until new growth reappears. Otherwise, holly trees should be kept well mulched and watered as they grow, and should be offered protection from extreme weather or high winds. Offering holly trees acidic fertilizer for evergreen trees should be done in spring and autumn as needed to foster growth and aid in bright leaf color and berry formation. If pruning is needed, the best time to prune is early in the springtime, and pruning should follow the tree's natural shape closely.
Holly trees can struggle with pests, including scale and leaf miner, and ailments that range from leaf spot to iron chlorosis. Adding iron back to the soil can assist with yellowing leaves that are a common sign of iron chlorosis. For garden pests, removal of affected foliage wherever possible and treatment with commercial pesticides is the best approach. Fungicides and fungal oils are the right approach for fungal diseases like leaf spot.