Holly has been a favorite winter decoration for at least 2000 years. But if you think holly is just good for decking the halls, think again.
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If you’re interested in propagating hollies there are three ways to accomplish this: from seed, doing cuttings and grafting. Grafting is difficult but propagating using seeds and cuttings is easy and fun.
Wash the pulpy, slimy material inside the skin off to get to the seed (figure B). This material actually has chemicals in it that prohibit germination. Normally the berry would drop and sit on the ground over winter. The rain and cold activate enzymes that eat those chemicals. Rinsing the seed in cold water mimics that process and offers the same results.
Next, fill weather-resistant flats, like cedar, over half full with soiless potting medium and lay the seeds on top. Then cover them with another layer of medium that’s about an inch thick. Level the medium down in the flat so you don’t have any parts where water can collect (figure C). Place the flats outside over the winter and it’s possible you might get some germination by spring. If not, let them sit through another winter. It does take some time but it’s worth it.
With seeds, there is no guarantee you will get the same variety as the parent plant. So if this is important to you, use cuttings.
To propagate by cuttings, pick a strong, healthy shoot. A tip cut (figure D) gives you the best chance of success because a hormone located in the tip of the plant helps stimulate growth. The best time to take cuttings is in summer to late fall.
Make the cut a quarter inch below a leaf node. Here you have a high concentration of the hormone that stimulates the stem cells to turn into rooting cells. Dip the tip first into water (figure E) and then rooting hormone (figure F) before inserting it into the potting flat full of medium (figure G).
Place the cuttings outside or in the greenhouse if you have one and keep them moist.