The holly bush, also known as Ilex, is a member of the Aquifoliaceae plant family. Holly bushes are an evergreen plant with thin, gray peeling bark; its thick, durable and pointy leaves usually last about three years. The tops of the leaves are dark green, while the bottoms are yellow-green. The plant begins flowering in May or June with flowers that are white with an occasional pink tint. The holly bush might look most familiar when its red berries appear in winter, which makes it a popular Christmas decoration.
Holly bush berries are round, hard and relatively small, usually measuring just under 1/2-inch (about 1 cm) in diameter. These berries are not intended to be consumed by people. Eating three or more berries can sometimes lead to digestion problems, such as vomiting or diarrhea. The red berries are not toxic to all living creatures, however; birds, raccoons and mice can safely include holly berries in their diets.
Holly bushes generally like a lot of sun, and they usually thrive when planted in acidic dirt. Although a holly bush might survive in a shady environment, it will often fade with the lack of direct sunshine. To ensure that red berries appear on the branches, both male and female bushes need to be planted near each other. Many gardeners plant holly bushes within a 30 to 40 foot (9 to 13 meters) radius.
Holly bushes are usually pruned in fall or winter seasons; to encourage further growth, branches can be trimmed when spring arrives. Some people enjoy cutting their holly bush into decorative shapes, which can typically be done in the fall or spring. The trimmings from a holly bush around the holiday season are often used for festive decorations. These pieces can usually remain green for a couple of weeks if placed in a sunny area and given water periodically.
Although usually low-maintenance, occasionally holly bushes might become diseased or infested with pests. Holly leaf miners or mites can cause noticeable damage to a holly bush, and gardeners might notice discoloration in the leaves. Bringing ladybugs into the yard could solve this problem, as they are the natural predators of many pests infesting holly bushes. Some gardeners will also use insecticidal soap on the plant to get rid of pests. Diseases, such as tar spot, might be easily avoided by not over-watering in the spring time. If part of a holly bush does become diseased, removing the infected branches might save the plant.