Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Plant Profile Holly -

Ev­er­green hol­lies are easy to grow, suc­ceed­ing on most soils. They dis­like wa­ter­logged con­di­tions and heavy clay, but need some soil mois­ture to thrive, so are rarely at their best on dry, chalk soils and seem to pre­fer neu­tral to acid con­di­tions. Best planted as young, con­tainer-grown plants at any time of year, al­though ide­ally in au­tumn or early spring. Oc­ca­sion­ally, Ilex aquifolium, if used for hedg­ing, is planted as small, bare-root plants.

Hol­lies grow in sun or part-shade and are use­ful sub­jects to plant un­der the light shade of de­cid­u­ous trees. They can be grown as longterm shrubs for pots and con­tain­ers, if planted in loam-based grow­ing medium. Re­mem­ber to feed an­nu­ally with a slow-re­lease fer­tiliser and wa­ter reg­u­larly. Their hardy con­sti­tu­tion means they are suitable for open, ex­posed sit­u­a­tions and most can tol­er­ate coastal air.

The ev­er­green types are ver­sa­tile shrubs, which re­spond well to prun­ing and clip­ping, most mak­ing ex­cel­lent sub­jects for hedg­ing, top­i­ary and train­ing as stan­dards. Hedges and top­i­ary are usu­ally clipped in late sum­mer. Old, un­trained plants can be­come strag­gly with long trail­ing shoots with a few leaves near the tips. These can be suc­cess­fully re­ju­ve­nated by cut­ting back hard in spring.

Var­ie­gated hol­lies oc­ca­sion­ally pro­duce plain-green shoots, known as re­ver­sion. This growth should be cut out as soon as pos­si­ble. It is more vig­or­ous than the var­ie­gated plant, so can soon take over. Like all ev­er­greens, hol­lies shed old leaves in sum­mer. This is es­pe­cially no­tice­able if the weather is hot and dry and leaf drop is sud­den. Rarely cause for con­cern, this is merely part of the grow­ing cy­cle.

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