Hollies (Ilex spp.) Form a large group of shrubs and small trees which fit niches in the landscape which several other plants do. They include some of the few evergreen shrubs which grow equally well in sun or shade. Other varieties have a columnar growth habit that is appropriate for tight, narrow spaces. They are all hard and resilient landscape plants which be cut back frequently without fear of damaging the plants. Depending on the variety, hollies could be increased in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10.
Hollies are commonly employed as hedge plants and plants — by definition — hedges are cut back on a regular basis to keep their form. Holly hedges might need cutting anywhere from once weekly to once monthly, depending on the increase rate of the plant and the preferences of each gardener. Normally, after 2 to 4 inches of new development has taken place, the shrubs are sheared again. Cutting back a holly bush this manner is totally harmless.
In contrast to hedging, pruning involves cutting entire branches of a plant to come up with a specific shape or to decrease the overall size. Hollies generally take on an attractive symmetrical shape with little or no pruning. However, some gardeners decide to remove the lower limbs to showcase the trunk, which does no harm to the plant. Many holly species can grow into small trees if their growth is not curbed. In case hollies become overgrown and need to be drastically reduced in size, they’re tolerant of being cut down severely. In fact, a mature holly can typically be cut to the ground and will regrow vigorously from its roots.
Cutting Hollies Through the Seasons
Hedging is exclusively a spring, summer and fall action. Even though many hollies are evergreen, they don’t put out new growth in the winter months. Pruning throughout the growing season arouses a feeling of development in the cut area — this tender new growth is vulnerable to frost damage, which is why it is better not to prune hollies in fall. Though pruning does not lead to lasting damage to the shrubs, severe pruning is best done in late winter while they are still inactive.
How to Kill a Holly
Hollies are hard to kill, but it’s possible — with good effort — to kill a holly bush by cutting it back. Hollies have large energy reserves in their roots, which is what enables them to rebound quickly from intense pruning. However, there is a limitation to their stored energy source, and it could only be secured through photosynthesis. When the new development that occurs when a holly is cut to the ground is removed instantly, the roots will eventually starve and the shrub will die.