How and When to Prune Hollies

Hollies easily weather pruning but not necessarily in deep winter.

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Q. We have some hollies near our deck that have grown too big for their location. Is it okay to cut them back in December? We live in Zone 5a.

A. Hollies are very tolerant of pruning, a characteristic that makes them good candidates for topiaries. And theoretically, most will recover from a hard cutback at almost any time of year. But recovery of a particular limb that's important for the look of the plant isn't guaranteed. So for best outcome and to ensure your hollies aren't unduly stressed, wait until late winter or early spring — just as the plant breaks dormancy — before you do any major downsizing. By waiting till your hollies are about to begin active growth, you'll also avoid several months of a skeleton appearance.

Light to moderate pruning, of course, is perfectly fine, and you can use the trimmings in holiday decorations.

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