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How to Prune Holly Trees

Holly Trees are plants of the Ilex genus that grow into a tree shape rather than a bush shape or are large plants. The types of Holly Trees we carry here at PlantingTree are hardy evergreens that are ideal for the home landscape. These plants make excellent privacy hedges, fabulous focals, and are great in groups! Holly plants are drought tolerant once established and low maintenance. Read on to learn how to prune Holly Trees!

When to Prune Holly Trees

Severe pruning should be done in winter when the tree’s biological functions have slowed down. Minor pruning can be done any time of the year. Broken or dead branches can be trimmed back when you notice them. Diseased limbs should be removed promptly. Holly hedges can be trimmed yearly in late spring, after new growth emerges. This yearly practice will keep your hedge looking well groomed.

How to Prune Holly Trees Easily

The surprising thing is that Holly Trees generally don’t require pruning. While some pruning maintenance as you Holly Tree ages is a good idea especially with damaged or unruly branches, most of the time Hollies have a natural shape that stays tidy. This is one of the best features of Holly plants in general. So unless you are quite particular or have a Holly Hedge you want in a very uniform shape, you won’t need to prune your Holly Trees often or maybe ever!

Always prune off dead, sick, or broken branches to keep your Holly Trees healthy and looking nice. These types of injuries can weaken your plant if not removed in a timely fashion and invite in unwanted pests that can harm your tree further.

A trim up can be a good idea if you like a clean look or are keeping a holly tree hedge. Work with the natural shape of your Holly Trees for best results. Simply prune off new growth or up to ⅓ of the overall plant. Never prune the lower branches shorter than the upper branches. The lower branches won’t have good light penetration and your holly bush will suffer.

For size control or invigorating an older overgrown plant, severe pruning can be implemented. Holly Trees can be pruned back to the ground. This seems drastic, but fresh, new growth may be just what your old Holly Tree needs. If you are in a colder climate a slower approach to rejuvenation pruning may be best. Prune back the plant by ⅓ overall and then remove ⅓ of the largest branches all the way to ground level or back to where they meet another stem. The heading cuts should be trimmed back to right above an outward facing bud for best results. The thinning cuts can be staggered from the ground to about 12 inches for a more natural look. If your Holly Trees are looking sparse at the bottom and you would like them to be more filled in, I would suggest pruning all the thinning cuts back to the ground within 6 inches or so.

Holly Pruning Pro Tips

  • Depending on the Holly Tree you have you may want to use gloves and wear long sleeves and pants to avoid injury.
  • Loppers may be a better tool over small hand pruners for those prickly Holly bushes.
  • Sterilize pruners between plants to maintain good horticultural practices and reduce disease in your landscape.

Now you know how to prune Holly Trees, so check our selection of Holly Trees, Holly Bushes, and other Evergreen Trees.

For additional options, browse our online plant nursery.

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