Holly cultivars vary as to the age at which the first berried branches (sprays) will be ready to harvest. On average, evergreen hollies mature in ten to twelve years while deciduous hollies take only three to four years before producing berried sprays for harvest.
Premature harvesting (when plants or sprays are too small) can reduce plant vigor and future production. Along with plant age, berry ripening also depends on seasonal climatic (amount of rain and sun, etc.) and growing (weed competition, fertility level) conditions. Holly berries will not continue to redden after the sprays are cut.
Hollies tolerate severe harvesting, but evergreen hollies in particular tend to be out-of-production (have few harvestable sprays) the following two to three years. When harvesting, cut sprays from over the entire tree, removing an equal amount from each branch.
Keeping cut holly alive will help maintain its best appearance.
In the field when harvesting, stand holly sprays in buckets of water if possible, or put them into plastic bags and hold them out of direct sunlight and wind. If you can't ship within a few hours of harvest, hold the holly sprays in cold storage (near 32 degrees F.). Hormone treatment prevents defoliation for about two weeks, if holly is held in cold storage.
HANDLE HOLLY SPRAYS WITH CARE! Rough handling causes berries to drop, and cracks and scratches to develop on leaves of evergreen hollies. Small injuries on leaves will form discolored areas during storage.
Prepare a concentration of NAA equal to 40 parts per million by using four times the recommended strength for spraying apples. Apply the NAA by dipping entire cut holly sprays into the solution for a few seconds, then drain. Do not allow cut holly to soak in the solution (dip only).
To maintain humidity, store and ship cut holly sprays in cartons lined with moisture barriers (polyethylene film, foil or wax-lined paper) to maintain humidity (Figure 2).
Wreaths are generally the most popular holly product. You can make holly wreaths on common-sized wire rings 8", 10", and 12" in diameter, or in larger diameters for special orders.
Make swags from holly alone (including deciduous and evergreen mixed), or combine with other evergreens such as pine, boxwood, fir and Leyland cypress. Use cones and ribbons for added decoration.
Sell small hollies as potted plants. Customers can use them inside during the holiday season, and then plant them into the landscape.
Use evergreen holly cultivars with white or silver variegated leaves to add color to green arrangements, or in mixed floral arrangements. Use yellow-berried evergreen hollies for Thanksgiving and golden wedding anniversary decorations. Evergreen and deciduous hollies with yellow and orange berries offer additional possibilities.
Commercial products are named in this publication for informational purposes only. Virginia Cooperative Extension does not endorse these products and does not intend discrimination against other products which also may be suitable.
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, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
May 1, 2009