Plant of the Month: Holly

Hollies are one of the most diverse family of evergreens which means that there is a holly for almost every planting need. Need something thin and upright? Sky Pencil is a perfect fit! How about a low growing hedge? Dwarf varieties like Compacta and Soft Touch are a phenomenal choice! Something with berries? Liberty and Savannah produce bright red berries in fall and early winter! Varieties like Steeds, Compacta and Helleri are excellent alternatives to Boxwoods as their growth habits and leaf shapes are extremely similar to each other. 

Sizing and growth habit vary between different varieties, with some averaging only 2-3 feet tall and others reaching up to 40 feet tall.


Most hollies require Full Sun (at least 6 hours per day), especially varieties that produce berries. Some varieties can tolerant to shade but may not be as dense as they would be with more light.

Hollies prefer moist, well-draining, acidic soil. Amend clay soils with Lobster Compost to increase drainage. If your soil is too alkaline, add Earth Science Sulphur to increase acidity.

Prune hollies when they are dormant in late winter/early spring.

Fertilize with an acidic fertilizer like Holly Tone in spring and early fall.

Some of Our Favorite Varieties

Burford Holly

Burford – A solid green variety known for its heavy fruit development in fall and early winter. True Burfords can reach about up to 15 feet tall but the dwarf variety averages 6 to 8 feet tall. Highly tolerant of heavy pruning so it’s a great choice for topiaries and shaping.

Carissa Holly

Carissa – Averaging 3-4 feet tall and up to 6 feet wide, Carissa is a fantastic foundational plant. Its large, glossy leaves provide an excellent backdrop for flowering plants throughout the year. Highly heat and drought tolerant once established.

China Girl Holly

China Boy & China Girl – These two shrubs reach 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. China Girl will produce of heavy crop of bright red berries in fall/early winter provided a China Boy planted nearby.

Compacta Holly

Compacta – A rounded shrub that averages 5-6 feet tall and wide. Its rigid form is easily maintained and rarely requires pruning. Works well as a hedge or in single plantings.

Inkberry Holly

Inkberry – Averaging 5 feet tall and wide at maturity, the female Inkberry stands apart for the black fruits it bears in fall/early winter provided a male cultivar is planted nearby.

Liberty Holly

Liberty – This upright, pyramidal holly bears dark red berries in fall/early winter and is a fantastic statement plant. Averages 15-20 feet tall and 12-15 feet wide. It’s a fast-growing variety, growing approximately 12-18 inches per year and allowing you to experience a full sized tree sooner. Liberty’s glossy, serrated leaves can be used in winter floral arrangements and stay fresh for weeks after cutting.

Nellie Stevens Holly

Nellie Stevens – Similar to the Liberty Holly, Nellie Stevens has smoother leaves and bears a more orange fruit in fall/early winter. Reaches approximately 15-20 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide at maturity. Fast-growing.

Robin Holly

Robin – Bearing the classic toothed holly leaves, Robin is another upright, pyramidal tree. It averages 15-20 feet tall and 12-15 feet wide. Bears bright red berries in fall/early winter. Fast-growing.

Sky Pencil Holly

Sky Pencil – This holly has a unique growth habit, with long branches that grow straight up and creating a column-like shape. Sky pencils average 6-8 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. Can produce small, purple berries in fall/early winter provided there is a male cultivar planted nearby. Does well in large containers.

Soft Touch Holly

Soft Touch – A dense, low growing holly with softer leaves that creates a smoother look in the landscape. Averages 2-3 feet tall and wide. Produces small, black fruits beginning in fall/early winter. Perfect for low borders and framing entryways, also does well in containers.

Steeds Holly

Steeds – A moderately sized pyramidal holly that averages 6-8 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide. Works well in hedges or as foundation plantings. Bears small, black fruits in fall/early winter.