Do Holly Trees Need Full Sun?

Holly trees are a beautiful, festive plant that can form a dense barrier and add bright colors to your yard. They're also extremely hardy plants that can thrive in a variety of light conditions. If you've wondered how much light your holly trees need and if they need full sunlight, don't worry. We've done the research so you can be sure the spot you plant your holly trees will let them grow strong and healthy. 

Holly trees do not need full sunlight. While holly trees do best in full sunlight, they can easily tolerate partial shade. It's recommended that they get at least 4 hours of direct sunlight each day. This makes them excellent choices for planting in a ton of different areas around the house. 

Now that you know how much sunlight holly trees need, you probably have some other questions. We encourage you to continue reading as we'll be going further into detail about how to care for your holly trees and how much sunlight they need.

Macro close up color image depicting red berries on the green leaves of a holly busy, Do Holly Trees Need Full Sun?

How much sun do holly trees need?

Holly trees can grow well in full sun and partial shade, but they still have some basic requirements. Make sure they get at least four hours of direct sunlight to ensure healthy berries and foliage. The best option is to plant them out in the open, but don't fear if your yard has many trees or you need to put them in the shade of your house. Holly trees can easily tolerate those partially shaded conditions. Just make sure they have plenty of water and get at least four hours of sunlight. 

Remember that only female variants of the trees produce those pretty red berries. If your goal is to have your bushes produce them, make sure to plant a female tree. The good news is that there are no differences in light requirements between female and male trees.

Where should a holly tree be placed?

Holly trees should be planted in well-drained but not dry areas. Look for slightly acidic soil in full sunlight for the best growth. While those conditions are ideal, holly trees can survive and thrive in slightly swampy soil, dry soil, and partially shaded areas as well. Holly bushes are a great option for planting next to your home since they form an extra barrier and can tolerate being partially shaded by the house.

There are many ways you can place holly in your garden or yard, but if their needs can be met, there are a few popular ideas. Planting the trees against your home breaks up the look of the front of your house and adds curb appeal. You can also plant holly trees as a natural fence along your property line, thanks to their dense foliage. Large holly trees are also great centerpieces for your yard!

An up close photo of a Holly tree and its berries

 You should also keep in mind the best times to plant holly trees. Spring and Winter are the best times to plant since those seasons usually have the best climate conditions for holly. Some varieties do better when planted in colder conditions, while others may require more rainfall, like in Spring. Again, be aware of which variety of holly trees you are planting. 

Are Hollys shade tolerant?

A woman trimming the branches of the Holly tree

Holly trees are shade tolerant. They do best in full sunlight, but they can handle partially shaded environments as well. Holly trees are very tolerant, and once established, can easily grow in less than ideal conditions.  Partial shading is when something blocks direct sunlight for portions of the day. This includes your home, other plants, landscaping features, or even power poles. If it casts a shadow on the spot you want to plant your holly tree for an extended period, it's a partially shaded spot. 

How do you take care of a holly tree?

Taking care of holly trees is honestly pretty easy. The intensity of the care they require is highest when planting but tapers off to only a little maintenance once established. We'll discuss a holly tree's care in stages here.

Like most trees and shrubs, you'll need to water your holly tree daily for the first week. Until they're established, you'll need to water the trees twice weekly until they're fully established. You'll want to ensure they get 2 inches of water each week during their lifetime, so be aware of droughts and dry weather. Normally, you won't need to water holly bushes consistently after they're well grown. 

Be aware of which variety of holly you plant. Some varieties only produce berries when a male is present with a female plant. Some varieties can grow to over fifty feet tall! Before you plant your tree, be sure to know which variety you've picked so you aren't surprised and can give it the best care possible. 

Once a year, fertilize your holly trees with a balanced fertilizer. For a great look at some of the best all-purpose fertilizers, check out our article: 15 Best All-Purpose Plant Fertilizers [Liquid, Powder, And Granular]. In addition to the fertilizer, it's helpful to spread mulch around the tree to help retain water and regulate soil temperature. Finally, holly trees will require pruning to keep their shape and stay healthy. More on that in the next section.

This is a close-up of a Burford holly tree with red berries on a sunny day at the end of winter on a sunny day in Tennessee, How Long Does A Holly Tree Live?

How do you keep a holly tree small?

Pruning is very important for holly trees and is the best way to keep them small. Once per year, you can trim the main shoot back to your desired height. Try to do this in the late Fall or Winter, but remember you can trim the shoot when you need to, just once per year. 

You'll also want to trim any of the limbs that extend off the bush. It helps keep them compact and stops the bushes from looking disheveled. It's also important for the plant's overall health, as removing dead branches can help the plant sprout new ones. For a look at the best gardening shears, check out our article: Best Long-Handled Garden Shears [12 Shopping Suggestions].

In Closing

Holly trees do not need full sunlight to be successfully grown. While holly trees do best in full sunlight, they're a very forgiving plant that can tolerate a wide variety of less than ideal conditions. After reading through this article, you should have a great understanding of how much light your holly trees need and a solid understanding of how to care for the trees. 

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