The Q&A Archives: Holly Bushes

Question: #1 I have 2 holly bushes and would like to add another 1 or 2. It is my understanding that these shrubs are either male or female and need to have the mate to grow. How do I determine if mine is a male or female so that I may purchase the correct mate to plant beside to ensure growth?
#2 When is the best time to prune these shrubs to remove unsightly growth and improve the shape?

Thanks for the assistance,

Answer: It's true - there are both male and female hollies and you need one of each in order to have the female produce berries. You can't tell by looking at the plants whether they are male or female, but you can make the determination by dissecting the flowers. Even this is difficult because the flowers are so small. Nursery-grown hollies begin from cuttings of a positively-identified holly variety. The cuttings are labeled either male or female based upon the gender of the parent plant. You'll need only one male for several females, but the trick is to have a male that blooms at the same time as your females. You can wait until your hollies are in bloom and then visit the garden center to see which of their hollies are in bloom. Choose one female and one male in bloom for your yard.

Pruning can be done in mid-winter when the berries are visible but before new growth begins. If flowering and fruiting isn't important to you this year, go ahead and prune your hollies to get them into shape.

Best wishes with your hollies!

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