The Holly Bush - A Christmas Bush

You’ve seen holly, mostly at Christmas. Those lovely green leaves loaded with red berries.They really are symbols of Christmas. Their bright red berries and dark green leaves make them the perfect choice for wreaths and flower arrangements to add color and pop. To some folks, it wouldn't be Christmas without holly!

The interesting thing about holly is they are male and female plants.Both plants produce flowers but only the female produces berries.What a wonder of nature, one thing where the female does something better than the male! I mean after all, male birds are more colorful than female birds and so on.Anyway, with the holly you have to have a male nearby to pollinate the female so she will have berries.Of course, nearby constitutes within two miles! You can also have just one male for several females.

Hot dry summers affect the female too.If there isn’t enough water and/or it gets too hot the green summer berries will fall off. Those green summer berries are the ones that turn red later on so you will have a female without any red berries.

All hollies like full sun (without being too hot or dry.)They will grow in partial shade but tend to become more spindly with the bush not being as full.Plus, if you plant a female holly in the shade the berry yield will be lower meaning not as many berries on the shaded plant. Holly also likes well-drained soil.

The sun and sand caused the holly in the foreground to become to dry.  It's more spindly than the one in the background.
The sun and sand caused the holly in the foreground to become to dry. It's more spindly than the one in the background.

The best time to plant a holly is in the fall. Be careful where you place a holly because its roots grow out far and wide. If you plant it too near your walkway the roots may get underneath and ‘uproot’ your walkway. As for trimming the holly, you can cut dead wood off anytime. Opinions vary about regular pruning, however, some say late fall others say winter. Christmas is a favorite time of some real holly buffs. They say that’s the best time to prune. The best part about pruning at Christmas time is you now have lovely holly branches to use in your house for Christmas decorating. (Remember holly is evergreen - green all year long) I guess it’s a decision you have to make yourself. Just don’t go prune crazy and cut away too much and always remove what you’ve pruned off. Dead leaves are not a good thing to leave around your holly although mulching is a good idea because of the holly's shallow roots. The mulch should be compost or wood chips or if you’re as lucky as I am you can use an enhanced mulch like Dynamulch. Fertilizing a few weeks before frost and in early spring is a good idea as well.

Female holly bush
Female holly bush
Holly berry wreath (Public Domain Photo)
Holly berry wreath (Public Domain Photo)
Flowers on holly bush (Public Domain Photo)
Flowers on holly bush (Public Domain Photo)

Holly Berries

The berries of the holly are toxic to humans and pets. However, once frost has passed they are not toxic to birds. What happens when your holly bush has no berries and you know it's a female? Well, you may have pruned it too early in the year, cutting off the flower buds that will form berries. I mentioned earlier if the summer is very dry and you don't water your holly, they will drop their flowers and/or berries. Some gardeners say when the holly thinks it is in danger it will drop its flowers and berries (green ones) which means no red berries later.

Those little red berries are what make the holly stand out. There are a number of varieties of the holly bush but they all share the male - female requirement for berries. Now might be a good time to note, the varieties need to be the same to produce berries. If you have one variety of male and another variety of female their bloom times may not be the same. If they're not the same there will be a problem with pollination and you may not get any berries.

There are those who say an abundance of holly berries signals a harsh winter. I've never really noticed but now that I've learned that I'll have to keep a watchful eye.

Interesting Facts about Holly

  • The Christian Church associated holly with the crown of thorns, with the red berries representing Jesus' blood.
  • Holly is the official state tree of Delaware.
  • There are holly bushes and holly trees...trees reach a height of 35 to 50 feet!
  • In South America holly is used to make a type of tea drink.
  • The only places holly doesn't grow is western North America and Australia.

There are somewhere between 400 and 600 species of holly, can you believe it? In researching this article I found that the Druids used holly as wreaths on their heads.Yes, the Druids. When we were in Ireland I was amazed that we stood on ground the Druids stood on and here I find the Druids used holly, one of my favorite plants. In ancient Rome holly was given to newly married couples as it represented good will. In Ireland holly was believed to protect one from evil spirit while in Scandinavian countries it was believed holly protected from lightning.They believed it was originally owned by Thor the God of thunder and lightning.

Hollybush is the name of a road in South Wales.There is a Head of Hollybush located in Knott County, Kentucky together with a Hollybush Creek.There’s a Holly Bush Pub in Hampstead Village, London, said to have “the best Sunday roast.” There’s a Hollybush mansion at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.There are also people with the last name Hollybush. Seems Holly is popular in many ways.

So the holly bush is more than just a bush; it’s a name, it’s a place, it’s a bush, it’s a tree, and it’s an interesting species. Look up the holly bush to use this Christmas you won’t be sorry you did.

Please vote and leave a comment, I am always interested in what you have to say!

All photos are property of Tillsontitan unless otherwise noted.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

Photos property of Tillsontitan unless otherwise noted.

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

Are you a gardener? Do you have tips for other gardeners? Why not write about them... Publish your work right here on hubpages. If you're not already a hubber, why not join us? It's free and you'll get to meet some really great people and maybe even make some money while you're doing it! Click on this link and get more information.

More by this Author


Comments 25 comments

Lesleysherwood 5 years ago

I really did enjoy this article and voted UP. I love holly and I love this site because it makes you think and learn about things you wouldn't ordinarily think about. Like learning how many species of holly there are and its history in our world. Are you in Britain tillsontiton. I have always thought of you in America, but this hub made me feel differently. I understand if that's too personal btw. This does go out to the world after all.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Actually Lesleysherwood I'm in New York, upstate. I have several holly bushes around my property and love them all. Thanks for the vote!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Penny. Seems we do have an interest in Holly's! I don't have room to let them just grow, wish I did.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 4 years ago from India

I enjoyed reading your hub. This is new to me as I have not seen a holly bush before.

Thanks for SHARING:)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thumbi7 that is the amazing thing about hubpages, we come from all over the world, together in this place. So glad you enjoyed it.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

I love holly but have no luck growing it here. Enjoyed your hub. Voted Up


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I'm surprised moonlake they seem to grow everywhere! Thanks for stopping by.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

so beautiful! i love the color and love the act behind it


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

It definitely brightens up a winter landscape Unknown!


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

I suppose I should have known that male holly does not have berries, but I did not. We have a short holly hedge that I love, except when I get pricked...then it really stings for a bit. Enjoying your song right now too.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

The leaves on the holly can definitely be prickly! Glad you're enjoying the song and hope you enjoy your Christmas forgyfish!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America

A beautiful Hub! and rated Up as well. I used to live near many holly bushes and loved seeing them all year long. You have brought back good memories - Thanks!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

So welcome Patty...holly and Christmas go hand in hand.


Larzi 3 years ago

Actually I live in Western Australia and I have a holly bush in my front yard, which I often use to decorate at Christmas time despite it being summer. It is classified as a weed in many states of Australia probably why you don't see it around much. But it does grow here, and it produces its berries during summer.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

It was interesting to read that the holly bush is considered a weed in many states of Australia! Thanks for the information. It was also interesting to find out it is decorated at Christmas time. Thanks for sharing Larzi.


Tpratt 2 years ago

Actually holly is not a deciduous bush. Deciduous means the tree looses there leaves during the fall..holly bushes are evergreen.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for the correction Tpratt. A little contradictory here so thanks to you I made a change.


TPratt 2 years ago

Your welcome! I've always been interested in horticulture. Do you have any other blogs I could read on this subject .


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

I have more here on HP. If you go to my profile "Tillsontitan" you will see all of my stuff.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I would love to have a holly plant. It is one of the symbols of Christmas for me.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Awesome reading! I have a big holly bush. I just love it, and used some clippings from it to help create a centerpiece yesterday! Happy Holidays!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

I love the holly trees. When I was quite young we lived in a huge Victorian house in the Pacific Northwest. The house was was quite tall. There was a holly tree in the front yard that was as tall as the house and it was so beautiful. I don't think I have seen a holly bush, just the trees. I so enjoyed reading this hub, Mary. It brought back some wonderful memories of our huge holly tree, which was very magical and kept the malevolent faeries away - only the good fae danced around our holly tree.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

Most interesting, and so voted, as well as up, useful and pinned.

I did not know there were so many different varieties. I also learned not to try and plant it, as I live in Western North American where it is said not to grow. Also, our summers here get quite hot; sometimes we have a week or so of triple-digit temperatures.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Aesta besides being a symbol of Christmas, it is a lovely plant! Thanks for stopping by.

Rebecca, I love mine too and I also use clippings for Christmas, Merry Christmas.

Oh Phyllis how wonderful. I only saw a holly tree about two years ago. I would certainly love to have one of those, simply amazing. Do the bushes work on malevolent faeries or just the trees?

Thanks for the votes and pin Miss Lizzy. We have some triple digits too, but not often. There is a holly, though not a true holly but it has red berries in winter, that grows in Ca. its known as toyon or Christmas berry.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Merry Christmas, Mary. The holly bush, being in the same genre as the holly tree, would also work on malevolent faeries.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working