How to Care for Your Holly in Winter

-frosty holly plant Ted lare design & build

It wouldn’t be the holidays without holly! While we love this winter shrub for its bright green foliage and vivid red berries, there are some important key ways to care for your holly bush and prepare it for a cold winter.

Planting Holly for Winter Color

It may be too late this year to plant, but remember this for next summer—the options are endless when it comes to deciding what type of holly you’d like in your outdoor space. There are over 500 species ranging in size, shape, and variety. Get these shrubs established in the summer garden so that you can enjoy a winter of color next year!

-holly bush foliage ted lare design & build

When you think of holly, you’re likely envisioning the classic spikey green leaves and bright, shiny red berries. However, not every variety produces berries. If that’s important to you, make sure you choose a variety that does. There are female and male varieties, both produce delicate white flowers but only female holly will create the berries that are iconic for the holiday season. When deciding to add holly to your garden, be aware that they can be toxic to humans and pets if ingested in large doses.

How Cold Can Holly Survive?

Holly is a pretty tough little bush that can handle a lot. While they are a low-maintenance bush, they will likely still need some care. They can be found decorating gardens and spaces as far north as zone 5. Even though they are cold-hardy, they will benefit from a knowledgeable green thumb that can protect them from frost damage.

Watering Your Holly Bush in Winter

Proper care includes watering well into late fall and early winter. Sufficient mulching around the base of the holly bush can help regulate water through the cold months. You’ll want to mulch about 2-3 inches deep around the bare ground, avoiding mulch directly against the base. 

Water well up until the ground freezes, but don’t overwater: oversaturating the roots will cause sogginess and rot.

Protecting Holly From Cold Damage

There are a few approaches to try when it comes to proper protection of your holly bush in winter. There is a process called desiccation, when moisture is lost faster than it is absorbed. This is a result of long periods of cold, dry weather and wicked winter winds. This is particularly an issue with young hollies during their first winters. 

There are products called anti-desiccants, which can be sprayed on hollies when they are dormant in late fall or early winter. Another approach for proper care in winter is to wrap your holly bush. Try installing a few wooden stakes around the base of your holly and then wrapping them in burlap to create a shield from the worst of the winds, but be sure it can still get adequate sun exposure—you don’t want to block off all it’s access to light even during the winter months. 

Enjoying Your Holly Shrub This Winter

Holly is, of course, a staple of all holiday decor. You can use the foliage and berries in any DIY wreath, garland, or arrangement; it handles pruning very well, so cutting back your bush for decor reasons won’t bother it. With proper care outdoors, your holly bush will delight the neighborhood all winter long. Birds also love the berries, so get your binoculars ready for some spectacular winter birdwatching. 

With some care, your holly shrub will thrive all winter and beyond. If you’re wondering where to buy a holly bush in Iowa, come visit us at our garden center: we’ll be happy to help you!


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