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American Holly Trees

American Holly, is a species of Holly native to the eastern United States, and can be found growing from coastal Massachusetts south to central Florida, and west to southeastern Missouri and eastern Texas. American Holly is a popular winter Christmas and holiday season decoration. The European Holly does not grow in the climate of most of the United States, but the American Holly makes an excellent second choice for it closely resembles the European Holly.

The American Holly is a medium-sized broadleaved evergreen tree growing upwards of 20 feet tall. The bark is light gray, roughened by small warty lumps. The branchlets are short, green at first and covered with rusty down, later smooth and brown. The winter buds are commonly brown and short. The leaves remain on the branches for two to three years, finally falling in the spring when pushed off by growing buds.

Planting Directions For An American Holly

Seasonal Information: While many of us go on a mad search for holly branches and berries around the holidays, holly shrubs are best planted in spring, right before they start growing but with plenty of warm weather on the way.

Location: American Holly like lots of sun and well drained soil that is slightly acidic with room to grow.

Planting Instructions: Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball. Place the tree inside and cover with soil. For extra protection, add mulch and tree stakes to help the tree grow straight. If your soil is very heavy, add some organic material to lighten the texture and improve drainage.

Watering: Your tree will need to be watered regularly to make certain that the root system becomes well established. The soil surrounding your tree should be moist, but never saturated. Light green leaves can be a sign of over watering, while drooping leaves can be a sign of both over or under watering.

Fertilization: You must fertilize an American Holly tree once a year, preferably using a slow-release fertilizer. American Holly trees will benefit from a yearly mulch of used coffee grounds and show best results when using acid-rich soils.

Weed Control: If your American Holly shows signs of weeds, simply remove the weeds and as much of the weed’s root system as possible. You can choose a common herbicide available in most stores if you feel the problem is out of control or simply keep removing the weeds until the problem is resolved.

Pests and Disease: Birds love American Holly berries, but thankfully they prefer them after several freezes, which usually means they wait until late winter to eat them. The most common diseases affecting hollies are black spot, Phytophthora leaf and twig blight, and sooty mold. Common insects include holly leaf miners, bud moths, and red mites.

Pruning: American Holly respond well to pruning and make great hedges or topiary. Correct bare spots, caused by over shearing, by making deeper pruning cuts to allow light to reach the plant. Take care to prune branches only back to a growth bud – if you completely remove a holly branch or stem, it may not grow back in.

Pollination: American Holly grown within 30-40 yards will pollinate naturally if there is a male and a female present. It is recommended to use the same species if you wish to pollinate. If you do not, make sure not to plant them together.


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