Figuring out how to treat the soil in your garden for future or existing plants can be confusing. Do you have hollies in your landscape but don't know whether they prefer acidic soil or not? How acidic should a holly bushes' ground be? Can soil have too much acidity?
Luckily, we've done our research and have the answers (and more) below.
For anyone with holly, this shrub does enjoy moderately acidic soil. Hollies are generally acidic-leaning plants, doing better in areas with lower soil pH. On top of that, you can always amend more alkaline soils to be acidic for holly, so there are options here.
As we begin this post, we will cover all things growing hollies and discuss how acidic one's ground should be. Whether you're new to this species, have a few hollies growing in your yard, or have additional questions, we're here to help. With that said, let's dive right into this topic and figure things out!
Do Hollies Prefer Acidic Soil?
Yes! Hollies do typically prefer moderately acidic ground conditions. On top of that, this shrub species does best in full sun and doesn't like to be moved around too often.
With that said, your hollies' soil doesn't need to be overly acidic for it to thrive. Even though many shrubs can do okay in alkaline conditions, hollies need a bit of acidity to grow and flourish.
You also want to ensure the ground near a holly has good drainage, as this shrub doesn't like standing water. Therefore, you want to focus on a few things: sunlight, acidity, and drainage.
If only one of these conditions is met, your holly may not grow well and even die. Furthermore, if you test the ground surrounding your holly with a higher pH, you can always use an amending soil product to give it more acidity and lower the pH.
What Kind Of Soil Does Holly Grow Best In?
When planting holly, you want to find a spot in the ground that drains well, has adequate daily sunlight, and has a lower pH. As we mentioned above, hollies will grow better with more acidity in the ground, so that's something to remember.
According to experts, you also want to ensure your shrub's ground has lots of organic matter. Good nutrients in the soil around your holly will keep it healthy and encourage root development.
In addition, hollies can grow in just about any type of ground except for those on solid chalk.
Generally, super-packed soil leads to waterlogging and root rot, which can be deadly for holly. When the soil is too close together without pathways for water to move, that can become a dangerous environment for your hollies.
So, don't be afraid to break up the ground with aeration shoes or mix sand to improve drainage. You can also use small rocks for drainage, so there are various ways to do this.
Can Soil Be Too Acidic For Hollies?
Although you shouldn't run into overly acidic soil for your hollies, this is possible. Generally, the ground can maintain its current pH over time, although using amending products can tamper with it.
For example, if you use an acidic product to lower the pH of your hollies' ground, there's a chance it will reduce those levels too much.
Luckily, hollies shouldn't be harmed by this too bad, so just lay off the acidic products moving forward. As we said before, you can also test the ground's pH now and then.
For example, the pH number for neutral soil is seven, so you want to try and maintain a reading of 3-6 for your hollies. Three would be very acidic growing conditions, so that's not always necessary.
Compared to other acid-loving plants, like azaleas, hollies are much less needy regarding their soil acidity and overall conditions.
So, your holly will grow perfectly fine if the ground reads 5-6 pH.
What Happens When The Ground Becomes Too Acidic?
If the ground becomes too acidic, you can expect a few things to occur. Typically, soil with an incredibly low pH level will lack nutrients and become difficult to survive.
Even acid-loving species won't get the necessary energy to grow and stay alive, which can become devastating. According to Agriculture Victoria, when the ground becomes overly acidic, this will increase the impact of toxic elements.
Furthermore, this can also decrease plant production and negatively impact water intake. So giving hollies too much acidity can prove deadly in some situations.
Therefore, we recommend using a pH meter and testing your ground periodically. If the reading comes back too low, try avoiding any acidic products in your garden and apply a soil neutralizer to help raise those pH levels.
SOILPHU 4-in-1 Soil Meter
This soil meter reads pH, moisture levels, temperature, and sun exposure, works inside and outdoors, is easy to read and use, uses triple-A batteries, won't damage plants, and only needs to be inserted four inches into the soil to work.
Jobe's 09365 Additive De-Acidifier
This organic soil neutralizer increases soil pH, doesn't contain additives or harsh chemicals, has a granular formula, and comes in an easy-to-pour six-pound bag.
Do Hollies Need Full Sun?
On top of slightly acidic soil, your holly shrub will also need full sun to grow. As we covered earlier, hollies prefer full sun exposure and depend on it to steer clear of overwatering and soil issues.
With that said, if your garden gets dappled sunshine throughout the morning and afternoon, your holly should be okay. Generally, as long as your plant gets six or more hours of light daily, it will be happy.
It's also worth noting that hollies love bright light. So, even if your garden doesn't get full sun all morning or afternoon, your holly should thrive if there's reflective lighting through your property.
Some experts claim that certain holly varieties can handle shadier growing conditions, but that mainly applies to regions with the powerful sun.
For example, someone growing a holly shrub in the western United States might be okay to have it in partial shade, while someone up north won't have that same luck. Everyone is different.
Where Is The Best Place To Grow Holly?
If you want to try growing holly in your garden, this species has a vast growing zone. Generally, you can plant the American holly variety throughout USDA zones 5-9.
Therefore, this shrub or tree prefers warmer climates, often thriving in places that don't freeze too often. With that said, hollies are very resilient and usually don't require much attention.
On top of that, hollies can grow in full sun or dappled shade, depending on the heat. Your holly will respond better to partial shade if you're somewhere hotter.
For the ground conditions, you want to ensure your holly has acidic-leaning soil, drains well, and doesn't feel too confined to a small pot or plot of land.
Additionally, hollies can be trained as trees, so if you want a larger plant, that might be worth trying.
How Quickly Will A Holly Grow?
You can generally expect a holly to grow 12-24 inches annually. Of course, this speed depends on how well you take care of your plant and its soil conditions.
Remember, hollies prefer acidic ground, well-draining soil, and plenty of sun; your plant may not grow as fast without these. Furthermore, hollies can be shrubs or trees, depending on their variety, which will also impact growth rates.
Between the two, a holly tree is more likely to show two feet of annual growth versus a smaller shrub. These evergreen shrubs are usually easy to manage and grow if you meet their required conditions.
As we mentioned, your holly might do better with a lower pH, so if you need to amend the soil: that's worth trying. The last thing you want is your holly to become stunted because you have it in neutral or alkaline ground.
Many experts claim that adding acidity to a hollies' soil can speed up its growth, so that's a win-win.
Jobe's Organics Soil Acidifier
This soil amender adds acidity to the ground, has a granular formula, is USDA certified, organic, contains no synthetic ingredients or chemicals, should be applied 2-3 times annually, and comes in a six-pound bag.
Can Holly Grow In Alkaline Soil?
Although hollies might be able to grow in alkaline soils, this isn't the best thing for them. As we mentioned, hollies aren't generally keen on higher pH levels for their ground, so alkaline soil (pH above seven) may not help them grow long-term.
In contrast, growing holly in less acidic soil can actually stunt their development. According to Jobes, you don't want to try growing hollies in alkaline conditions as they won't reach their full potential.
You want to try and provide your shrub or tree with a lower pH, so it can grow quickly and become strong and healthy into its maturity.
To Finish It Up
Whether you have hollies growing in your yard or want to plant one, it's always good to understand their ideal growing conditions. We found that hollies typically prefer acidic soil, somewhere between three and six pH.
Furthermore, hollies need full sun, well-draining ground, and nutrients to grow and develop their root systems. It's usually a good idea to test the soil surrounding your holly for its pH now and then to ensure it doesn't become too alkaline.
If this happens, your holly may not grow as well and could have trouble maturing.
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