Demystifying the Growth Rate of Holly Bushes

With their glossy evergreen foliage and cheery red berries, holly bushes add year-round interest to gardens and landscapes. If you’re considering adding these classic shrubs to your yard, you probably want to know – how fast do holly bushes grow? Understanding their growth habit will help you plan their placement and care.

Let’s explore the factors that influence holly growth rates and typical size progression so you know what to expect from these stately shrubs

Holly Bush Growth Rates Vary by Variety

There are over 400 holly species with growth habits ranging from small compact shrubs to towering 50-foot trees. Growth rates can differ dramatically between varieties. Here are some examples

  • Nellie Stevens holly – The fastest growing variety, gaining 2-3 feet per year. Reaches 15-25 feet tall at maturity.

  • Dwarf burford holly – Slow growing, only 6-12 inches per year. Just 3-4 feet tall when mature.

  • Blue holly – Medium growth rate of 12-18 inches annually. Matures at 10-15 feet.

  • American holly – Native variety with slow growth of less than 12 inches per year. Eventually reaches 40-50 feet tall.

So as you can see, holly growth rates run the gamut from quite slow to relatively fast. Make sure you select a variety that fits the space you have.

Optimal Growing Conditions Speed Growth

Given the preferred growing conditions, holly bushes will grow at the fastest rate their genetics allow. Here’s how to provide what they need:

  • Sunlight – Most thrive in full sun or partial shade. Insufficient sunlight slows growth.

  • Soil – Hollies prefer slightly acidic, organically rich soil. Poor soil stunts growth.

  • Water – Consistent moisture enables strong growth, especially when young.

  • Fertilizer – A balanced fertilizer in spring gives hollies a nutritional boost.

  • Pruning – Judicious pruning encourages dense, shapely growth habit.

Meeting these basic care needs will empower your holly bushes to achieve their ideal growth rate.

Expected Growth Rate by Age

The growth pattern of holly bushes follows a general trajectory:

  • Years 1-2 – The fastest growth occurs in the first couple years after planting, from 1-2 feet per year.

  • Years 3-5 – Growth starts to slow but still averages 1 foot per year.

  • Years 5-10 – Growth continues at a moderate pace of 6-12 inches annually.

  • 10+ years – Mature hollies add less than 6 inches per year. Growth significantly tapers off.

So while hollies are generally slow growing shrubs, they put on the most growth when they’re young. Patience is required as growth inevitably slows with age!

Size Progression of Holly Bushes

To give you a better idea of potential size progression, here’s an example growth chart for a fast-growing Nellie Stevens holly:

  • Year 1 – Planted as a 1-2 foot nursery shrub.
  • Year 2 – Grows 2 feet, reaching 3-4 feet tall.
  • Year 3 – Adds another 2 feet, now 5-6 feet tall.
  • Year 4 – Another 18 inches of growth, now about 7 feet tall.
  • Year 5 – Gains 1 foot to reach 8 feet tall.
  • Year 10 – Has slowed to 6-12 inches growth per year, standing around 12 feet tall.
  • Maturity – Will eventually top out around 15-25 feet tall after a couple decades.

The exact timeframe will vary, but this example reflects the relatively fast growth rate of this variety. Slower growing hollies may gain just a few inches per year!

Tricks to Speed Up Holly Growth

While hollies will never rocket up in size overnight, you can encourage a little faster growth with these tips:

  • Plant in optimal soil – acidic, organically enriched, well-draining.

  • Water deeply 2-3 times per week for the first 2 years.

  • Apply balanced fertilizer in early spring and midsummer.

  • Ensure the shrub gets ample sunlight.

  • Prune lightly in summer to promote denser growth.

  • Remove competing vegetation around the root zone.

  • Mulch around the base to retain soil moisture and nutrition.

  • Avoid extreme stress from drought, waterlogging, or exposure.

Enjoy Hollies However They Grow

Patience is a virtue when it comes to growing hollies. Their slow but steady pace results in a stunning mature shrub. Avoid trying to rush their growth and instead enjoy the journey as your holly fills out over time. Their beauty is well worth the wait!

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Holly

how fast does holly bush grow

Holly bushes and trees will instantly make your yard look better thanks to their formal beauty. These hardy and lovely plants will help your landscaping last for a long time.

Here are some tips that will help you keep these beautiful plants looking and growing their best.

Growing Holly Bushes and Trees

how fast does holly bush grow

These pretty shrubs are easy for even beginners to grow in full sun or partial shade in a wide range of climates and conditions from USDA growing zones 3 to 9. Just make sure you know your Hardiness Zone before choosing the Holly that will do best in your area. But because Holly trees and shrubs are so flexible and useful, it’s no surprise that they are so popular with people all over the continental United States!

Who knew how easy these gorgeous, glossy shrubs were to grow?

There is a Holly for every Hardiness Zone, from southern species that can handle heat and humidity to hardy Blue Holly Hybrids that can grow close to the Arctic Circle.

Place your broadleaf Holly plants away from dry winter winds in zones 4, 5, and 6 to keep them from getting winter burn.

Hollies like to be planted in full sun or partial shade. Most prefer slightly acidic soils, so use a fertilizer for acid-loving shrubs in early spring.

Holly does best in organic soil that drains well, and for most of the season, give it an even amount of water every day. Once they are established, Native Winterberry Holly shrubs can grow in soggy, wet soil. Don’t put away the hose until the fall to give your broadleaf evergreens a good drink before the ground freezes or during the mild winter months so these shrubs can keep their leaves looking their best. Going into the winter with dry roots can lead to leaf burn and windburn during the winter months.

Nature Hills Root Booster will help your Holly roots for a long time, and 3 to 4 inches of arborist bark chips or pine needle mulch should be spread on top of the soil around the roots. They do love their soil environment on the acidic side. Their shallow roots resent competition, and mulch helps your plant stay clean and pretty.

The mulch keeps the soil from splashing onto the leaves, which keeps them clean and free of diseases. However, Holly plants don’t have many problems with pests or diseases to begin with.

When Holly bushes bloom, they put out new wood. If the bushes are male, don’t prune them until after the flowers are over. This way, the female flowers can be pollinated. This will give new growth time to harden and mature before the cold season sets in. Of course, you can go ahead and snip the berried branches for seasonal decorations.

how fast does holly bush grow

Japanese Holly and deciduous Winterberry Hollies require little pruning. Allow the plants to flower so they can pollinate the female flowers and produce fruit. Renewal pruning, which is usually done every three to five years, can be used to keep the plants flowering and fruiting well on the younger, thinner branches by cutting out the older, thicker stems.

For a more formal look, Holly plants, especially those with smaller leaves, can be sheared after they flower. However, because they grow more slowly, they look just as good when left to grow on their own. Please allow enough room for your choice to reach its mature height and spread.

All About Holly Bushes | Ask This Old House


How long does it take for a holly bush to grow?

As an emblematic species in the holly family, American Holly grows at a slow to moderate pace, usually under a foot per year. Mature trees can tower to heights between 40-50 feet. Its classic holly appearance with prickly leaves and colorful berries make it a favorite for traditional landscapes.

How to make holly grow faster?

Hollies like to be planted in full sun or partial shade. Most prefer slightly acidic soils, so use a fertilizer for acid-loving shrubs in early spring. Plant Holly in a well-drained organic soil for best results and apply an even amount of water consistently for most of the season.

What is the fastest growing holly for privacy?

Nellie Stevens Hollies are fast-growing trees, which are frequently planted in rows between 5 and 6 feet apart to create a dense hedge or privacy screen.

Where is the best place to plant a holly bush?

Holly bushes do best in well-drained, moderately acidic soil, in full sun. They don’t like to be transplanted, so think carefully about where you’ll plant.

How fast do holly bushes grow?

Once established, holly bushes grow at a slow to medium rate. You can expect to see height increases of between 12 and 24 inches per year. What are holly bushes good for?

How tall do holly bushes get?

Holly plants range from towering trees to small compact shrubs just 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Is holly hard to grow? When grown in the right conditions, holly plants are easy to grow, low maintenance and free of most pests and diseases.

Do holly bushes grow year-round?

Holly bushes are eye-catching for the bright red or dark red berries they produce, as well as their spiny evergreen leaves, which stay green year-round. Holly bushes are eye-catching for the bright red or dark red berries they produce, as well as their spiny evergreen leaves, which stay green year-round.

Are holly bushes Hardy?

With glossy green leaves and festive red berries, holly bushes are one of our favorite shrubs. These hardy, low-maintenance evergreens make a beautiful addition to any landscape. Here’s how to grow and care for a holly bush in your garden. You’ll have the best chance of success if you plant your holly bush in cool weather.

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