Holly Plants
holly berrie bush
(Image credit: LesyaD)

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 (183 m.) 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 two-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 the winter or early spring, you may also be cutting off the stems that would produce berries next year.

Dry or Cold 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 (2.5 to 5 cm.) of water a week. A late cold snap or frost can kill the flowers on the holly bushes that would have become berries later on.

Age or Location

If your holly is too young, it will not bloom or produce berries. On average, hollies need to be at least three to five years of age before flowering and producing subsequent berries. Another reason for non-fruiting in holly shrubs is not having enough light. Locating hollies in too much shade can reduce flowering, thus resulting in no berries.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.