There is no substitute for careful planning when dealing with a long-term crop such as cut holly. While evergreen hollies mature in ten to twelve years, deciduous hollies take only three to four years before producing berries. Initial plant size, plus cultural practices, will determine berry production time.
Consider many factors before deciding whether to grow cut holly. If you are willing to invest in land, equipment and labor for a crop that will take several years before harvest, ask yourself the following questions. Are you willing or able to:
If you answer "yes" to all of the above questions, you have the potential to be a successful holly orchardist.
Orchard location will be one of your first decisions (Figure 1). As with most crops, the ideal land on which to grow holly trees is good agricultural land with a loamy soil, good water-holding capacity and good drainage.
Site selection depends on which holly species you decide to produce, the physical characteristics of your land, and less tangible features such as labor and markets (Figure 2).
Evergreen hollies need level to gently sloping land with good drainage. Deciduous hollies can be planted in less well drained soil. Production of evergreen species will generally be limited to the warmer parts of Virginia (hardiness zones 7 and 8), while the more cold tolerant deciduous species can be produced anywhere in Virginia.
A site that receives full sun is ideal. Plants should be protected from winter winds by windbreaks. Areas where frost is heavy or cold air settles (generally low lying) should be avoided to prevent flower bud damage.
Whether you currently own land, or plan to lease or purchase new land, the following are recommended:
One final consideration - if you don't own land, find a wholesale or a choose-and-cut Christmas tree grower, and ask to lease part of his or her land. Look at the marketing possibility for both of you!
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
May 1, 2009