The Q&A Archives: Pruning Hollies

Question: We have screens of Nellie Stevens hollies on each side of our house. After 2 years in the ground, they are growing in some areas but not evenly. How do we prune so that they can ultimately, when full grown, be allowed to remain unpruned and still look pretty and shaped like Christmas trees? Thank you for helping.

Answer: The easiest way to keep the plants looking natural is to remove anything you consider to be errant growth by cutting it back at various lengths. With my shrubs, I carefully prune back anything that's exceptionally long or heading in the wrong direction by cutting the stem back to a node that's buried behind the rest of the stems on the shrub. This method disguises cut ends. Wherever you cut you can expect two new stems to appear so cutting lower than the rest of the growth will essentially produce a denser growth habit. Also, if you vary the length of each of the stems you cut back, the result will be a more natural look. If you shear a shrub so that every stem is the same length, it will take on a formal, sheared look. Just do some random cutting and your hollies will look natural.

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