Holly Shrub: Everything About The Holly plant

Common holly bush with red fruits

Hollies are one of the few high-end shrubs that give a garden a plush look. They should be used sparingly and given the prominence they deserve.

In this article, I have gathered for you all the information about the holly shrub, its main characteristics, and what you need to know to plant and grow it.

Characteristics of the holly plant

Scientific nameIlex supp.
OriginNorthern Hemisphere
Rusticity -20°C (-68°F)
ExposureLight shade
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:5 to 10

Hollies are beautiful shrubs that can grow from less than 1 m to more than 4 m in height. Their beautiful evergreen foliage, leathery and glossy, with slightly sharp teeth, is very decorative, as are the many colorful fruits that appear from September and persist until March.

Their slow growth, which implies their high price, can be an obstacle to their acquisition, but it also represents a definite advantage for the cultivation of topiaries in pots, for which no pruning work is necessary.

How to grow a holly shrub

close up view of a holly plant

Hollies like fresh and rich soils and hate calcareous soils and drought. They can live in full sun if it is not too hot.

For almost all hollies, the sexes are separated; only the female plants bear fruit. In order to obtain an abundant fruiting, it is recommended to plant one male plant for every 5 female plants.

Pruning is unnecessary in most cases; a pinch of the branches after a few years is enough to maintain the silhouette of the shrubs.

Remove the completely green branches that may appear in variegated species.

How to grow hollies in pots

This method of cultivation consists in maintaining in good condition the plants that you will have taken care to buy already well formed and of a respectable size, because it is not necessary to count on a spectacular growth.

Drain the bottom of the pot, use a potting soil with 1/4 of heather soil added, and keep the soil fresh at all times.

Where to plant a holly shrub

The look of the holly is such that it can be placed in isolation, close to the house, on the terrace or near the entrance, where it will be particularly attractive, in the ground or in large pots.

Our selection

Close up view of holly berries

Ilex crenata is a holly of 3 m height, with small green leaves hardly crenellated, whose vegetation reminds that of the boxwood. Its slow growth allows it to be used in elaborate topiaries, pruned in the style of Japan, where it originates.

It is also offered in several varieties of different sizes: ‘Convexa‘, 2 m high, green, suitable for pruning; ‘Convexed Gold‘, less than 1 m high, golden yellow in spring; ‘Golden Gem‘, with light green to yellow inerrant leaves, is ideal for rock gardens and pots with its 30 to 50 cm size in all directions. ‘Fastigiata‘, dark green, with a narrow columnar habit, 80 cm in diameter and 2 m high.

– I. x altaclerensis ‘Golden King‘, 5 to 10 m high and 3 to 5 m in diameter, with golden yellow variegated foliage, is very sparse.

I. aquifolium is the classic green holly, very thorny, to be retained with its improvements. 5 to 10m high and 3 to 5m in diameter. Its compact variety ‘Alaska‘ is very fruitful.

Albomarginata‘ has the same characteristics and its foliage is variegated with cream. Pyramidalis’ is used for simple topiaries; it is vigorous and has bright green foliage. ‘J.C. Van Tol‘ is not very thorny; it has green leaves, abundant fruiting and a pyramidal habit. It is a good pollinator for all hollies. ‘Golden Van Tol‘ is distinguished by its yellow margined leaves.

Selected for their fast growth and very good resistance to cold (down to -30°C), the American varieties with bluish green leaves are recommended for hedges.

Think of associating a variety with its pollinator for abundant fruiting: ‘Blue Princess’ with ‘Blue Prince‘, ‘Chinese Girl‘ with ‘Chinese Boy‘, ‘Blue Stallion‘ with ‘Blue Maid‘.


The holly is a bit like the rollys of decorative plants. Low maintenance due to its slow growth, beautiful in the ground as well as in pots. Buying one is often very expensive, it’s true, but the holly gives a unique effect to your space.

For this type of plant, I invite to a lot of reflexion and I advise against buying it on a whim because it is not a plant for everyone.

Scroll to Top