How To Transplant Holly Bushes

By: Heather Rhoades

Moving holly bushes allows you relocate a healthy and mature holly bush to a more suitable part of the yard. But, if you transplant holly shrubs incorrectly, it can result in the holly losing its leaves or even dying. Keep reading to learn more about how to transplant holly bushes and when the best time is to transplant a holly.

When is the Best Time to Transplant a Holly?

The best time to transplant a holly bush is in early spring. Transplanting in early spring helps to keep the plant from losing its leaves due to the shock of being moved. This is because the extra rain in the spring and cool temperatures helps the plant retain moisture and this prevents it from shedding leaves as a way to retain moisture.

If absolutely necessary, you can transplant holly bushes in the early fall. The chances of the leaves dropping will be increased, but the holly bushes will most likely survive.

If you do end up with a naked holly after transplanting a holly shrub, don’t panic. The chances are very good that the holly will regrow the leaves and be just fine.

How to Transplant Holly Bushes

Before you remove the holly bush from the ground, you will want to make sure that the new site for the holly shrub is prepared and ready. The less time the holly spends out of the ground, the more success it will have in not dying from the shock of being moved.

At the new site, dig a hole that will be larger than the root ball of the transplanted holly. Dig the hole deep enough so that the holly bush’s root ball can sit comfortably in the hole and that the holly will sit at the same level in the ground that it did at the previous location.

Once the hole is dug, dig up the holly bush. You want to make sure that you dig up as much of the root ball as possible. Dig at least 6 inches (15 cm.) from the perimeter of where the leaves end and down about a foot (30 cm.) or so. Holly shrubs have rather shallow root systems, so you do not have to dig deeply to reach the bottom of the root ball.

Once the holly shrub is dug out, quickly move the shrub to its new location. Place the holly into its new spot, and spread the roots out in the hole. Then backfill the hole with soil. Step on the backfilled soil all the way around the holly bush to makes sure that there are no air pockets in the backfilled hole.

Water the transplanted holly thoroughly. Continue to water it daily for a week and after that water it deeply twice a week for one month.

This article was last updated on

Read more about Holly Bushes


Castle Spire® Blue Holly. Photo by Proven Winners.

Holly is most commonly associated with the Christmas season, the branches and berries a favorite component of holiday decorations. Though holly shrubs provide four-season interest, it’s during winter when they really shine. The brightly colored berries stand out against the snow, adding beauty to the winter landscape.

With so many forms and sizes to choose from, there’s a variety suitable for every landscape need, from containers to mass plantings. Most garden cultivars are tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, making them an invaluable addition to any yard.

Where to grow holly

Most holly varieties thrive in moist, but well-drained soil in sun or shade.

How to plant holly

Plant holly bushes in the winter months. Dig a generous hole for your plant, incorporating well rotted garden compost into the soil. Back fill and firm down gently around the base of the plant.

How to care for holly

Hollies are slow-growing plants that are easy to care for. If you want Christmas berries, these are produced on female plants in late autumn to mid-winter. To get them, you need both a male and female plant to ensure cross-pollination, so always plant two. You can recognise male and female hollies from their flowers – the male flowers have more prominent stamens. It’s important to remember that the berries can be harmful to humans if eaten.

Prune hollies according to your requirements. They respond well to cutting back and can be trimmed into formal shapes and hedges, or left more free-form. Pruning should be done in late summer, before the new growth becomes woody. Read our tips for pruning holly.

If you have inherited an overgrown holly, stagger any hard pruning over two or three years to reshape it.

Watch Carol Klein discuss growing holly with an expert at RHS Rosemoor in our video guide:

How to propagate holly

Hollies can be grown from seed. Collect seed from the berries in December, January and February. Remove the flesh of the berries and rinse the small seeds. Then plant them into compost and leave to germinate outdoors.

Or you can take semi-ripe cuttings in August and September when you carry out your formative pruning or take hardwood cuttings in winter.

Growing holly: problem solving

Hollies are robust and relatively trouble free. However, they can be affected by holly leaf blight. This is a fungal infection of the leaves, caused by Phytophthora ilicis, which causes discoloration to leaves and stems and loss of foliage. It requires cool, damp conditions to flourish and is believed to have come from North America. It has become more of a problem over the past decade and records show it’s more common among these varieties: I. aquifolium, I. crenata, I. × altaclarensis, I. dipyrena and I. kingiana, I. colchica, I. pernyi var. veitchii and some clones of I. apaca. There is no treatment currently available, but if you spot blotchy leaves, cut out the infected area and burn the trimmings to prevent it spreading.

Holly leaf miner is a small fly with larvae that causes patches and blotches by feeding inside holly leaves. It doesn’t harm the plant overall, but looks unsightly. The best method of treatment is removing the affected leaves by hand and destroying them.

Winterberry Holly

Scientific Name: Ilex verticillata

Mature Size: Up to 8 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Acidic

Flower Color: White to green-white

Special Features: Tolerant of wet soils

9. ‘Red Sprite’

This is a female holly which is native to the east of North America. It thrives in a wide range of soils, including wet and boggy soil types. It is well suited to cold climates and is hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 3

10. ‘Wildfire’

This holly produces pure white blooms towards the end of spring, which will develop into glistening red berries when pollinated by a male counterpart. The shrub has a spreading habit and will grow as wide as it is tall, making it ideal for use as a decorative hedge or border.

11. ‘Winter Gold’

This deciduous holly gets its name from the golden orange berries it produces in abundance throughout winter, following the green-white flowers that arrive late in the season, from late spring to summer. It has a slow growth habit, forming a loose round shape with its many slender branches. It needs to be grown in acidic soil, as these plants grown in neutral or alkaline soils tend to struggle and die.

12. ‘Jim Dandy’

This male holly is a dwarf variety that grows to between three and six feet tall. It produces small green-white berries that can be pollinated with female flowers in order for those plants to fruit. It is a deciduous shrub with deep green, ovate leaves that have serrated edges. These leaves will transform into a purple-yellow color in fall, before turning entirely yellow and falling to the ground.

10 hollies to grow

Hollies aren't just for Christmas - discover 10 attractive hollies that will add interest to your garden all year round.

Everyone is familiar with our common holly, Ilex aquifolium, with its glossy evergreen leaves and red berries. But there are lots of other varieties to grow, some with attractive foliage and berries that range in colour from orange to purple.

Hollies are generally male or female, so check before you buy. If you want berries on a female plant, you will need to plant a male nearby. Some cultivar names can be confusing: for example, Ilex aquifolium ‘Golden Queen’ is male, while Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ is female.

Hollies are easy to grow – they will grow in sun or partial shade, and prefer moist but well drained soil. The variegated varieties keep their colours better in full sun. Hollies can be grown as specimen plants in a lawn, or in a mixed or shrub border, and some make excellent hedges – great for garden security. They need minimal pruning – just remove any diseased or wrongly placed branches in spring. Trim holly hedges in late summer.

If you are cutting holly as a festive decoration, pick some sprigs early in winter, before the berries get eaten by birds.

Here are 10 attractive hollies to grow.

Ilex aquifolium

Common holly, Ilex aquifolium, has shiny, evergreen leaves. It can be grown as a specimen tree, a clipped bush or a hedge. There are dozens of varieties, many of which have variegated leaves. Both a male and a female plant are required for the female plants to produce red berries, which appear from late autumn to mid-winter.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ is a beautiful variegated female holly. Its spiny, dark green leaves have silver-cream edges, tinged pink when young. In autumn it produces masses of bright red berries. As it’s tolerant of salt and pollution, it’s particularly suitable for growing in urban or coastal sites.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’ is grown for its distinctive foliage – it has distinctive silver margins on its spiny and glossy green leaves. Despite its name, it’s a male plant, so does not produce berries. The stems and young foliage are purple.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’ is a male cultivar with small leaves that are splashed with yellow. It’s a compact, slow growing shrub and like most variegated hollies, does best in full sun.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Mermaid’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Mermaid’ is an attractive variegated holly, bearing spiny, dark green leaves with a creamy white variegation. It’s a female variety that produces red berries in autumn.

Ilex x koehneana ‘Chestnut Leaf’

This unusual holly is a cross between Ilex aquifolium and Ilex latifolia. Its soft, glossy serrated leaves look very similar to those of sweet chestnut. The branches of this female variety sweep down and are loaded with late red berries, which persist on the plant for a long time. A vigorous grower, it has an attractive pyramidal shape.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Hascombensis’

This unusual male holly is a slow growing shrub with small, pointed leaves. It’s very compact, making it suitable for growing in a pot.

Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Belgica Aurea’

Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Belgica Aurea’ is another pretty, variegated holly. Its slender leaves are dark green with a yellow edge and are about 10cm in length. A female variety, it’s a fast grower.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Ferox Argentea’ is also known as the ‘silver hedgehog holly’, probably because it has spines on the surface of its leaves as well as the edges. It’s fairly slow growing but has a dense habit, and can be pruned to make an unusual hedge – good for security. It keeps its variegation in shade. It’s male, so doesn’t produce berries.

Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’

Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ is one of the prettiest golden variegated hollies you can grow. It is relatively compact, with a conical shape. Despite its name, it’s a female variety and produces red berries in autumn.

Holly as an alternative to box

If your box plants have been hit by box blight or the box tree caterpillar, Ilex crenata, the box-leaved holly, can be a good alternative. This compact evergreen has tiny, serrated leaves and can be clipped into shapes.

Home Remedies

There are several home remedies for the chemical treatment of holly stumps to kill of the roots. Much of this advice would also damage the soil around the stump, so if you’re planning on replanting the area, be very careful of what advice you take, and don’t do anything that sounds ‘too good to be true.’

For example, I’ve heard it suggested that pouring bleach and salt on the open stump and roots is a good method. This is not good advice if there is anything growing around the bushes that you wish to keep alive and/or if you plan to replant the area after the stumps are removed.

I’ve also heard of utilizing copper nails to kill off the shrub. The theory is that the copper will be drawn into the root system and eventually kill the remaining plant. It is doubtful that enough copper would be absorbed and transported into the plant and roots to kill it off. There is an excellent explanation of the chemistry here:,5753,-2347,00.html

Perhaps in smaller trees, this would work, but it seems to me that hollies are just too persistent to succumb to small amounts of copper. If anyone has a different experience with this method and found it to be successful, please leave a comment on this post.

Varieties of Hollies

There are different types of holly trees in which they are more popular.

American Holly: It goes up to a height of around 50 feet.

Chinese Holly: Goes up to a height of about 8 feet until it ripens.

Michigan Holly / Winterberry: The leaves of this Holly falls on November and colorful red berries appear.

Japanese Holly: They go up to a height of about 12 feet.

Dwarf Holly: This approx goes up to 3 feet in height and is suitable for borders. Read more.

Read also: Easter Cactus Care and easy Growing

Watch the video: Can You Dig It - Learn how to dig a tree or shrub to transplant

Previous Article

Clean Your House Naturally: Learn About Natural Home Sanitizers

Next Article