There’s nothing quite like a bright sprig of holly to spread the holiday cheer. Those glossy green leaves and red gum drop berries are a must-have when it comes to seasonal gardening. Most people pick up a wreath at the garden center around now, but if you’ve got a green thumb, you know growing it yourself is the way to go. Though it’s a little late in the game to plant your own for this holiday season, it’s never too soon to prepare for the next one! With our tips, it won’t be long before you’ll be decking out the house with holly from your own yard.
- Choose the right kind. There are more than 400 holly species out there! They come in both evergreen and deciduous types, and can grow between 6 and 40 feet tall and wide! The botanical name for the holly plant is Ilex.The typical ‘Christmas’ variety is technically English holly (Ilex aquifolium). It has crimson berries and deep green, shiny, prickly leaves. Going for something a little less ordinary? Try a Japanese holly. These plants are known to live more than 75 years if properly cared for! If you want to put a little distance between yourself and the neighbors, try Chinese holly. Its foliage is extra-thick and grows into a natural fence of sorts. Want to add a splash of color to the garden? Try Blue holly, with its purple stems and blue-green leaves. And don’t forget those red berries! The birds go nuts for them.
- Decide when & where. The best time to plant a holly bush is in fall or spring.
Holly grows in most all climate zones. When determining the location for planting, choose a spot with acidic, moist, well-drained soil. Make sure the area receives lots of sunlight. Holly spreads far and wide, so plant away from your house, the sidewalk, the driveway, telephone poles, etc.
- Plant seeds… If you want to plant your bush from seeds, patience is key! You’ll want to plant them in moist soil and leave them indoors for around 12 weeks. Don’t expect to see much growth during that time. A unique protective layer can keep the seeds from sprouting for months.
- …or plant directly in soil! If you don’t want to while away months waiting for your holly seeds to burst out of the soil, you can buy a ready-to-plant bush at a garden center. If you want those trademark berries, pick up both male and female plants. Usually they’re not labeled either way, so the best way to be sure is to purchase at least one plant with berries, as females almost exclusively produce them.When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole 2-3 times as wide and at least as deep as the plant’s root ball. Carefully place your plant inside, then cover the hole halfway with soil. Next, water the plant and allow it to settle and drain in the soil. Then add another lay of soil and finish up by watering once more. Make sure to put around 5-25 feet of distance between plants.
- Be patient! Your holly bush will take its time before showing off its full range of foliage and color. On average these plants grow about 6 inches or less per year. Holly is fairly low-maintenance. Put down down a layer of compost and mulch each spring, and prune to encourage berry growth. During the rest of the year, these plan