Holly Winter Care: A Guide To Holly Winter Protection

Holly Winter Care: A Guide To Holly Winter Protection

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Hollies are tough evergreens that can survive punishing cold as far north as USDA plant hardiness zone 5, but that doesn’t mean they are impervious to damage from winter sunlight, freezing temperatures and drying winds. Winterizing holly properly can make the all the difference, and it isn’t difficult. Read on to learn about caring for holly in winter.

How to Winterize a Holly

Desiccation occurs when moisture is lost faster than it can be absorbed, usually due to harsh winter winds, sunlight, and long periods of cold, dry weather. It is most likely to occur to young hollies during the first couple of winters.

You can apply holly winter protection in the form of an anti-desiccant, but follow directions closely because applying the products too early can cause more harm than good. In fact, some experts think anti-desiccant products are useless.

If you decide to give the products a try, spray holly in late fall or early winter when the plant is completely dormant. Choose a day when temperatures are between 40 and 50 F. (4-10 C.), preferably when no rainfall is expected in the immediate future.

You may also want to consider wrapping your plants too for further protection. Construct a wind barrier to protect hollies from harsh winds and sunscald. Install three wooden stakes around the holly, then wrap burlap around the stakes.

Leave the top open, and leave an opening for air to circulate around the tree, but be sure the burlap protects the holly from prevailing winds. Don’t place the burlap so close that it can rub against the foliage.

Additional Holly Winter Care

Winterizing holly begins with suitable care. The following tips will help:

Surround the holly with a thick layer of mulch extending out to the drip line, but leave a 2- to 3-inch (5-8 cm.) span of bare ground around the trunk. Mulch mounded against the trunk can cause rot, and may also encourage rodents and other animals to chew on the bark. (If this is a serious problem, wrap hardware cloth around the trunk.)

Water hollies well into fall to ensure the plant is well-hydrated going into winter. Cut back normal watering slightly in early fall to allow the holly to harden off, then provide plenty of water from late fall until the ground freezes. However, don’t create undue stress by overwatering to the point of sogginess.

Water the tree during the winter if you notice shriveling or other signs of winter damage. If your hose is frozen, use a watering can and apply just enough water to thaw the ground. The holly will be able to draw moisture through the roots.

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Read more about Holly Bushes

How to Grow Winterberry Holly

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Gardeners in northern climates are faced with a challenge in keeping the landscape interesting when the last of the autumn flowers and colorful fall foliage have faded. Winter is a time when many gardeners resign themselves to a dreary winter landscape, spending their time planning next year's garden. But if your landscape has been well planned, winter need not be a time of colorlessness.

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), a deciduous holly shrub that is native to the eastern U.S., can be a great addition to the landscape, as it produces bright red berries that persist through the entire winter and into spring. Not only do the bright berries add important color to winter landscapes, but they also lure in colorful birds that love to feed on the prolific red berries.

Unlike other familiar holly shrubs, winterberry is a deciduous shrub rather than an evergreen. Although one might view this as a drawback, it proves to be a beneficial trait, since it allows the exciting display of red berries to come to the forefront as winter arrives. All the attention is drawn to the plant's fruit, with no foliage to obstruct the view.

Winterberry is a slow-growing shrub with a rounded upright growth habit. It typically grows 3 to 15 feet tall and readily suckers to form large thickets. The leaves are dark green and elliptical, about 2 to 3 inches long. Fall color is usually not impressive, although some years may see the foliage turn an attractive maroon color. Fairly plain greenish-white flowers appear in spring, which, if properly pollinated, produce a dense crop of 1/4-inch-diameter, bright red berries in late summer and fall.

Botanical Name Ilex verticillata
Common Names Winter hollyberry, hollyberry, black alder, false alder, fever bush
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size 3 to 15 feet tall and wide, depending on variety
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Medium-moisture to wet soil
Soil pH 4.5 to 6.5 (acidic)
Bloom Time June to July
Flower Color Greenish-white
Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 (USDA)
Native Area Moist swamps and thickets in southeast Canada and Eastern U.S.
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals

How to Winterize Hollyhock

Proper summertime care will help your plants thrive during the dormant season. Mix nutrient-rich additives into the soil, such as compost or peat, to increase the organic content of the soil in the hollyhock flower bed.

Hollyhocks grow quite tall, and should be protected from high winds to prevent the plant stem from snapping or bending. When a plant becomes extremely tall and gangly with fewer blooms, it's probably not receiving enough sunlight.

Hollyhocks will propagate quite readily in the proper soil and light conditions. If you prefer to keep the plant contained, pull any new shoots as soon as they appear.

Hollyhocks tower above most other flowers in any traditional cottage garden. Some varieties can reach as tall as 8 feet. Hollyhocks have a tall center stalk that resembles a spike, with multiple flowers staggered up the stem. The stalk contains knobby green buds that will eventually burst into bloom with more flowers. Hollyhocks require very little care and preparation for the winter. However, there are a few things you can do to winterize your hollyhocks to help them thrive in your garden.

Evaluate the condition of your hollyhock plant while the plant contains blooms and vibrant leaves. Look for rust spots on the leaves or dead areas that require pruning.

  • Hollyhocks tower above most other flowers in any traditional cottage garden.
  • Hollyhocks require very little care and preparation for the winter.

Clip back any spotted leaves to reduce the incidence of a fungal infection during the growing season.

Allow foliage to wither and drop to the ground as temperatures cool. As with many perennials, it's best to simply leave the foliage attached to the plant until spring. The only exception involves leaves infected with rust spots on fungus. Even dead leaves should be removed from the garden and discarded to prevent a recurrence.

Place a 4-inch layer of mulch over the hollyhock for additional protection during the winter. In some areas, ground freeze can cause the plant to shift. This can cause root exposure that kills the plant. A layer of mulch helps insulate the soil and limits the chances of cold weather damage.

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