Holly ilex aquifolium (also known as holly, common holly, English holly, European holly, and sometimes Christmas holly), refers to a group of 400 species of holly indigenous to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia.
Regarded in folklore as the male god of plant life, Ilex is a dioecious tree or shrub found, for instance, in sheltered parts of forests of oak and in beech hedges.
It has a tremendous capacity to adjust to wide-ranging conditions and is regarded as a ‘pioneer species’ that replenishes the outer reaches of forests and clearcuts.
As a tree, its growth can easily surpass 10 metres. It is most typically encountered as a shrub or a small tree roughly six or seven feet tall, complete with an upright trunk and pyramid-shaped crown. It is very slow to grow and does not always reach full maturity as a result of grazing, cutting, or fire.
Holly can, incredibly, boast longevity of up to 500 years – but generally will not get far past 100. It is very practical evergreen shrub that appears as a specimen tree, clipped bush or as a hedge. Plants are either male or female. Both sexes are required for the female plants to bear winter berries, which are produced from late autumn to mid-winter. The Royal Horticultural Society has assigned this plant the top Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
It is a hardy plant but you should bear in mind that well-drained, light, and dry soil conditions are best for holly. A beginner should have no problem getting started with the plant. When planting, prepare a 5cm to 10cm later of wood chips, sawdust, pine needles or ground bark, so as to maintain moisture and coolness around the roots.
A helping of acid-based fertiliser in late autumn can lend the plant a good start on the growing season. Slow release fertiliser is always best. Remember, if any pruning needs to be done, then take care of the job in early spring before new growth appears.
Watering. Water the planet every two to three days in the spring and summer. If the soil is already well soaked from rain, give the plant some time to dry out again before you add more water.
Do this when the plant starts to put on new growth, around May. Remove the new growth back into the original shape of the plant using small clippers or shears. You may have to repeat this throughout the summer, because new shoots often appear out of the plant’s apex.
Holly needs a regular feeding schedule. Keep away as far as possible from flowers and fruits, which concentrates on energy delivery to the leaves. However, to support the berries, the plant needs lots of extra attention, which means feeding every two weeks! Use a quality liquid feed and ‘Osmacote’ in the holly which should be available from local garden centres.
Holly (ilex) can be harmed by Vine Weevil and so needs treating every year. Seek adequate chemical treatment from your local centre. The right solution will probably be mixed with water, which you can then soak the roots of the plant with. Leave this treatment until the very end of June, or the start of July.
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