Deck the Halls: Holly Bushes

By Kelsey Savage | Updated Nov 18, 2013 12:19 PM

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As your home decor becomes festive inside, it’s nice to see a little of that color scheme reflected outside as well.

There’s nothing that can double as a herald of the holiday season while adding interest in your landscape throughout the year like holly bushes can. Not only does the holly family offer both deciduous and evergreen options, but there’s at least one species that will grow in your garden, no matter what state you live in.

Just be sure to plant both male and female plants in your garden if you want berries—most holly species are dioecious. Here’s a breakdown of a few of the families to help deck the hall:


American Hollies

American Holly


Slow growing by season but capable of reaching heights of 30′ eventually, American hollies are evergreen and their foliage is the quintessential Christmas decoration—just watch out for the long spikes. This holly’s crimson berries don’t just brighten up your yard, they feed deer as well as many birds.


Japanese Hollies

Japanese Holly


If you are willing to move past crimson and green, then Japanese hollies make a great choice. Black berries pair with smaller leaves than their American counterpart has. Japanese hollies come in many shapes, including dwarf breeds as well as tall, columnar varieties.


Chinese Hollies

Dwarf Chinese Holly


Great for warmer climates, Chinese hollies often have the same spiny leaves as American versions as well as berries that range from red to yellow. “Buford”  is perhaps the most traditionally holly-esque and can be used as a landscape screen thanks to its large size. Others have more compact shapes and make great borders.



Possumhaw Holly

Photo: beechwoodlandscape

If you’re looking for mounds of red (or yellow or orange) berries and don’t care about the foliage, then the deciduous Possumhaw holly is for you. The small tree grows well in the eastern half of the US and sports white flowers in spring.

For more on seasonal gardening, consider:

The Winter Garden: Hedge Your Bets
For the Birds: 10 Feeders for Winter Nourishment
The Christmas Flower