Encouraging holly growth

HexagonHexagon Posts: 515
edited 21 March in Problem solving
My holly tree needs shaping. I want to encourage new growth on the lower branches, but I can see there isn’t much growing from where it was pruned by the previous owner. 

I’ve removed a bunch of ground cover plants I didn’t like so now I have a holly with a baldy bottom and a rather sad looking blue fence. 

There’s a cottoneaster timidly poking its way through from the back so hopefully the area won’t stay bare for long.

If I trim back the lower branches to a node then can I expect reasonable new growth? I don’t want to take much off it and I want to encourage new growth so that I can take some cuttings and spread it around the garden, as well as obviously fill the space previously occupied by the plants I removed.

If I put one of those slow release fertilisers in the soil can I expect more growth and/or faster growth?


  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 2,987
    edited 21 March
    It's very hard to say. Some hollies just have a natural growth habit which is a tiered pyramid shape. If you want a really bushy base, I think you will need to go bold and prune back all the top section down to the base and let it rejuvenate and start again. Waiting for the base to slowly build up may not happen because all the energy is at the top right now. 

    Looking at your soil, I think you need to concentrate on building a thick layer of mulch to create a damp and cool space for the roots.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 3,255
    I would suggest that you forget about encouraging new growth at the base, like Borderline say, it probably won't happen.  Hollies are naturally trees not bushes and are slow growing ones at that.  I would cut away the lower growth and turn it into more of a lollipop shape. If you mulch it well as suggested, you could then grow some bulbs or short perennials underneath.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 1,621
    Unfortunately holly is VERY slow growing. I wanted to take some of my last houses holly , so took some cuttings. Three years later I have two plants only 12 inches tall. I wouldn't cut it much just to shape the top if needed.
  • HexagonHexagon Posts: 515
    edited 21 March
    It looks like my idea of creating some more holly trees is not going to work for another good few years. Shame, it's such a nice plant. I'll feed it, mulch it and see what happens with some light pruning.
    You're right about the soil - it's quite dry and stony in this area and there are some thick roots from the evergreens behind so I doubt I'll get much planted in this area.  I wanted to move my Red Cordyline for a bit more colour here but I couldn't even dig a hole deep enough. Guess I could put it in pot and sit it on top of the soil!
    I have some pansy, phlox, poppy, forget-me-nots and godetia seeds, but I assume I'll need to be adding some organic matter into the soil before planting these, and then mulching over the top? I don't know anything about these seeds so I'll have to do a lot of research before deciding where to plant, what types of soil they like, how deep the roots are etc. AND I still have the rest of the borders to clear!
  • HexagonHexagon Posts: 515

    Fed, watered and mulched! That’s almost 25L of topsoil for barely 1sqm. I don’t know how I’ll get all the borders done by the end of March! My neighbours have immaculate borders, I have no idea how they keep up with as I literally never see them out there. They have been a lot more sparse with their planting though.

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 16,405
    We planted a holly hedge in our last garden, between a mostly grassed area and the cow paddock next door.   They grew very well but fat and short because the lovely cows would lean over the 100cm high barbed wire fence and nibble the soft spring growth.   I increased toe height of the fence so they could no longer lean over and the hedge grew much taller quite quickly.  I also pruned back the sides to reduce the width and divert energy upwards.

    It may be worth pinching out the tips of your holly stems to encourage them to shoot lower down.  If it doesn't work in the first year you can then try removing lower stems to make the lollipop tree effect and you'll have only lost one season.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 3,255
    That looks really good @tenpanyaki ; - I'm sure it will help the holly. 
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