The Q&A Archives: Pruning Pyramidal Hollies

Question: How do I prune Nellie Stevens Hollies to maintain the pyramidal shape when the lead stem has died back or broken? These are in a hedge row and the flat tops detract from the picket-fence effect of the hedge.

Answer: If there's still a bit of a stem left, you can train the next lowest branch to take the leader's place, by tying it up - just use what's left of the original leader as an anchor, and tie securely, using soft, flexible material. You may have to replace the tie as the new branch grows, to prevent accidental strangulation. If the branch isn't very pliable, tie it loosely and tighten the tie every few weeks until the branch is more vertical than horizontal. If there's nothing to tie the branch to, take a branch from each side of the plant and tie them together, using one as an anchor to hold the other one up. Just place the tie on the far end of the branch you want to grow upwards, and put the tie on the inside section of the branch you're using as an anchor. It will take a little doing, but eventually you can train one of the side branches into a new central leader. Then careful pruning will keep the holly in the pyramical shape you desire.

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