The Q&A Archives: skimpy berries on Berry-Magic "Kids" holly

Question: When I bought and planted the holly above in Nov. of 2003 it was full of berries. Since then it has produced many flowers and new berries each year but most dry up when they are very small while only a few remain to maturity near the lower portion of the plant. It is 3 ft. tall, looks healthy and is planted on the south side of a wooden fence about 3 ft. away. How may I get more berries to stay on to maturity?

Answer: A new holly is still in the process of becoming rooted and established for the first several years. During this time it may not carry a full crop of berries to maturity. Since it is setting berries it must be doing quite well and I would expect the berry crop to improve each year.

To some extent the berry crop will depend on the weather and soil conditions. Make sure your plant is well watered during dry spells as drought stress is a major cause of berry loss. Protection from sweeping winds can also help as winds are very drying too.

Topdress with a good quality compost each spring and maintain a two to three inch deep layer of organic mulch (try to use something acidic such as pine bark) to help keep the soil cooler and moister and also slowly feed the soil as it breaks down over time. You could also use a slow release granular fertilizer for acid loving plants such as Hollytone in spring per the label directions.

Good luck with your holly!

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