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Holly Winter Care

Holly is an evergreen shrub that thrives in USDA growing zones 5 through 9. This tree-like plant is covered in glossy green foliage with sharp, prickly points and features red berries in the fall and winter, giving it a festive look. Year-round greenery is plenty of reason to plant this low-maintenance shrub, but many gardeners also plant Holly because deer typically leave it alone.  

Holly is winter hardy, but the plant will require extra attention in the fall to survive the winter in some regions. Established plants may not need much winter care, but younger plants generally need help to make it through the first few winters.

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Cutting Back Holly For Winter

Hollies look their best in the fall and winter when the evergreen is dotted in vibrant red berries. Fall is also the time to prepare plants for the winter in zones 5 through 9. Cut back any dead or damaged sections in the fall before the plant does dormant. Wait until spring to do a serious prune, especially if you shape the tree to maintain a more stylized look.

Holly Winter Care in Pots

Potted Holly plants can spend the winter outdoors, but if the temperature is routinely below 40 degrees, it may be best to move the plant inside. The roots are more vulnerable to cold temperatures when in a container, and a potted Holly plant can comfortably spend the winter in a garage, shed, or basement.

Move the pot to a protected area if you plan to keep your container-grown Holly outdoors all winter. Exposure to wind and sun can dry out the plant during the winter, so moving it against a building or to a spot that will not receive much winter sunlight will help. Wrap the plant in landscape fabric or a tarp if it will spend the winter in an area prone to wind or increased levels of sunlight.

Watering Holly in Winter

Scale back how often you water Holly plants during the fall, but thoroughly saturate the soil in the last couple of weeks before the ground freezes. Take care not to overwater, but make sure the Holly gets a nice thorough drink. Once winter sets in, the plant will generally not need water. Plants in warmer zones may need water if they are very dry, but once dormant, Holly plants can usually wait until spring for water.

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Growing Holly Indoors

Bring the plant indoors for the winter to enjoy the greenery and berries through the holiday season. Place the Holly in a warm, sunny spot and water when the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil are dry.

Steps To Care For Holly in Winter

Holly is a cold-hardy plant and can easily handle winter weather. Sun and wind can dry out the plants, so we suggest protecting Holly plants from the elements if grown in areas prone to high winds or exposed to direct sunlight. Young plants may need winter care for the first few years, and more established plants may be fine without any additional maintenance.

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Step 1 - Remove any dead or damaged growth in the fall.

Step 2 - Spread mulch a few inches deep around the base of the plant to insulate the roots, but leave a few inches around the stem or trunk clear of mulch.

Step 3 - For young Holly plants or plants in areas subject to high winds, place stakes in the ground around the shrub and wrap landscape fabric, burlap, or a tarp around the stakes, circling the plant and protecting it from wind and sun damage.

Step 4 - Remove the cover and stakes in the spring before new growth emerges.

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