By Amanda Sears
Holly, Evergreen trees and shrubs add a longed-for bit of color to a winter landscape. The bright green of holly leaves with red berries is especially welcoming during the holiday season.
There are more than 400 species of evergreen and deciduous leafed hollies. They come in various sizes, from small shrubs to full-size trees.
Hollies need ample space to grow. Be sure to know how big your tree or shrub will get before deciding on a planting location! Evergreen hollies need to be planted in partial shade protected from winter sun and wind. They prefer a moist, organic, well-drained soil.
Be sure plants receive ample moisture during dry periods, especially going into the winter season.
While most hollies will tolerate alkaline soil, they prefer an acidic soil. So if you are having troubles with your hollies, try running a soil sample to test for pH. The ideal pH for hollies is 5.0 to 6.0. When fertilizing, use products that are made for plants that require lower pH’s, such as Holly-tone or Miracid.
Holly plants are dioecious, which means that some plants are male and others are female. For fruit production to occur, you need both male and female plants. Only the female produces fruit. It is important to have male and female plants that are closely related and flower at the same time growing in the same vicinity. It is very difficult to tell whether a plant is a male or female, so you will have to trust how it is marked on the pot at the nursery.
Mature plants can be kept at a manageable size and shape by pruning them in late fall or early winter. Prune hollies after they have been established for several years because newly planted hollies do not respond well to pruning. Try pruning to remove individual branches, shaping the plant as you prune. This will avoid giving the plant a severely clipped appearance. You may also need to prune out any long shoots that stick up after plants have put on new growth.
Some types of holly that do well here in Kentucky include Winterberry, American, Foster, Japanese, Compact Inkberry, China and Blue. For a more detailed list of varieties that grow well here in Kentucky, call the Madison County Cooperative Extension Office at 623-4072.
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