Growing and Overwintering Tips For Holly
Growing Holly means following the rules.
And the first of those is growing it in climates that support its
growth. But whoever pays attention to that rule? We want to grow this
shiny leaved evergreen in all gardening zones. If you have the warmth
(USDA zone 6 and warmer) then here's the drill. I note there are
"hardy" varieties that extend the range of this plant into USDA 5/6
but a true zone 4 kills them most years.
Sunlight and Soils
This plant will thrive in full sun or light shade.
It also grows best in a well-drained soil, in fact it will tolerate
drought once established. It is not particularly fussy about soil
I know there are a lot of folks who want to grow this plant outside of
its comfort zone. The killer is sunny warm winter days that heat up the
leaves, causing them to open up and lose moisture. Cooler night
temperatures close down the leaves, the ground is frozen so the lost
water can't be replaced and the leaves brown and die. End of plant.
You protect this by not allowing the summer sun to penetrate to the
leaves. You do this either by proper siting (winter shade during noon
times) or by spraying all upper and lower leaf surfaces with an
anti-desiccant or by covering the plant with burlap. Or by all three.
You do this every winter or you'll lose the plant.
Burlap will also afford some measure of wind protection. Excessive
drying winds also "burn" the plant leaves causing the same browning.
Good luck arranging this burlap as the needles on these slow growing
holly leaves produce killer scratches.
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Many folks plan on growing holly for the bright red berries. You need a
male and a female holly to accomplish this. And as long as there is one
male planted 12 feet or so from a female, then botany will rear its
head and berries will appear. I note that one male can easily take care
of several female plants so plan on planting at least 3 female plants
for every 1 male plant in the same general area.
No pollination equals no berries. The major cause of no berries if your
plants are thriving and producing scads of flowers (very small ones I
note) is not having a male and female. The male flowers tend to be very
sweetly-fragrant while the females are almost scentless.
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