Reasons Why A Holly Bush Doesn’t Have Berries

holly leaves
Image by Pete Birkinshaw

By Heather Rhoades

Many frustrated holly owners have asked “why doesn’t my holly bush have berries?” While a holly bush’s glossy green leaves are beautiful, the bright red berries add an extra boost to these bushes’ beauty. So when you have a holly with no berries, you may feel you are missing out on a visual treat. Let’s look at the question of how do I get berries on my holly bush?

Do All Holly Bushes Have Berries?

No, all holly bushes do not have berries. Hollies are dioecious, meaning that they need male and female plants in order to produce seeds, which are what berries are. So only female holly bushes will have the red berries.

This means that if some of your holly bushes do not have berries, they may be male and simply cannot produce berries. It also means that if all of your holly bushes do not have berries, that they may all be male or they all may be female. Without any male holly bushes nearby, the female holly bushes will not produce berries either.

There are also a few rare varieties of holly that do not have berries on either the male or female shrubs. Make sure that you check when buying your holly bush to make sure that the variety you are buying is one that makes berries.

Other Reasons for a Holly With No Berries

While a lack of both sexes of bushes is the most common reason for when holly bush doesn’t have berries, it is not the only reason. There are several other possible answers to the question “why doesn’t my holly bush have berries.”

Male Holly Bushes are too Far Away

If the male hollies are too far away from the female hollies, the females cannot produce berries.

Make sure that the female holly shrubs are within 200 yards of a male holly shrub.

Overpruning or Early Pruning

Sometimes a holly will have no berries because the flowers that would make the berries have been cut off. This happens when the holly shrub is overpruned or pruned too early.

Holly berries will only grow on 2-year-old growth. If you prune the holly bush back severely, you will cut this growth off. Also, if you prune in the summer or fall, rather than in winter or early spring, you may also be cutting off the stems that would produce berries next year.

Dry Weather

Almost all perennial plants will drop their flowers and fruit if they feel they are are in danger. Dry weather causes a holly bush to think it is in danger and it will drop its flowers and berries at that time, which means no berries later on.

Make sure that your holly bushes are getting enough water. They should be getting 1-2 inches of water a week.

Frost and Cold Weather

A late cold snap or frost can kill the flowers on the holly bushes that would have become berries later on.

This article was last updated on

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