Growing and propagating holly shrubs can be a rewarding experience provided you have the patience and fortitude required for success. In this article, we will look at how to grow holly from seed and cuttings.
Before You Start Propagating Holly
Growing holly is easy; however, in order to produce the bright red berries they're commonly known for, you need at least one female holly plant and one male. Holly shrubs can be container grown indoors or outdoors as foundation or specimen plantings. While they are hardy and tolerant of a variety of soil, holly prefers moist, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. They also enjoy sun or partial shade.
Propagation of Holly Shrubs from Cuttings
Propagation of holly shrubs is an easy, albeit lengthy task. Most holly plants are propagated through cuttings, which are dipped in a rooting hormone and placed in potting soil and sand mixture. This is then kept moist while the plants are establishing roots. The best time to do propagation of holly shrubs from cuttings differs depending on which type is taken. Softwood cuttings are usually taken in summer to late fall, but MOST cuttings for holly propagation are from hardwood cuttings, which are taken while plants or dormant or during cold weather. Cuttings should be made about a quarter inch (6 mm.) below a leaf node (for softwood cuttings) or above and below the bud unions (for hardwood cuttings) for the best results. While cuttings are thought to be the easiest way to propagate holly shrubs, propagating holly with seeds is also possible.
Propagation of Holly Shrubs from Seeds
Each holly berry each contains about four seeds. Growing holly from seed can be difficult as the seed germination is slow, requiring anywhere from sixteen months to three years. In addition, it can take another three years before the holly shrubs produce any flowers. A specialized coating to survive harsh winters protects holly seeds; however, this pulp-like substance also makes propagation more difficult. Nonetheless, growing holly shrubs from seed propagation can be done, with patience. Collect holly berries and break the skin off. Rinse the seeds in cold water and then plant them in soilless potting medium within a large flat. Cover the flats and place outdoors in a protected area over the winter. If all goes well, the holly seeds should germinate by spring. Otherwise, they'll have to remain through another winter. Now that you know how to grow holly from seeds or cuttings, you can start growing holly in your own garden.
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.
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