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Evergreen holly in pot and garden care & combine: Which plants are suitable?

One of those plants that we associate with Christmas is the evergreen holly. The European holly is also really pretty to look at with its jagged leaves and red berries. So it’s no wonder that the holly was named Tree of the Year for 2021. Would you like to plant this beautiful tree in your garden? How about keeping it in a pot for your Christmas decorations first before moving it? Especially if you only have a balcony at your disposal, you’ll definitely want to know what to keep in mind when caring for it. Now that we’ve introduced you to planting partners for the Christmas rose, we’ll explain how to care for the holly and what you could combine it with in a pot or tub. We should point out that today we are discussing the European holly and not the Japanese holly.

Evergreen holly – fact sheet

Evergreen holly care in the garden and tub - tips and planting partners

The evergreen hollyIlex aquifoliumis one of the few native evergreen plants, but spread throughout the world and originated in the Mediterranean region, southeastern Europe and North Africa. Other names are European holly, pod, hulst, winterberry, Christ thorn and Schradler in Austria. In English, it is again called Holly. For more information about European holly, see the following fact sheet in brief:

Evergreen holly has dark, jagged leaves with spines

Plant Family: holly family (Aquifoliaceae).
Location: Partial shade and shade
Leaf shape: oval-shaped with thorny prongs
Leaf color: upper side leathery, shiny and dark green, underside light green and dull
Holly flower: white to cream, about 8 mm in size, from May to early June
Berries: red; in autumn; become soft by the first frost and suitable as food for birds; the leaves and berries of the holly are poisonous
Height of growth: on average 3 meters, sometimes only 1 meter and up to 15 meters
Propagate holly: by seeds or cuttings

Low-maintenance winter plant for balcony and terrace with white flowers and red berries.

Note: As the evergreen holly is a very popular decorative material at Christmas, it was threatened with extinction in earlier times. In Germany, it is therefore under nature protection. However, since the plant tolerates pruning well, you can use the cut shoots of your own plant directly for your Christmas decorations. You’ll get a few ideas soon in another article.

Evergreen holly – care

The evergreen holly is a good hedge shrub


If you would like to buy an Ilex holly, you should of course first find out about its care requirements. What you should know about the care, you will learn from us! For pot care, it’s best to choose a small or medium height variety (such as hedge dwarf).

Holly location, watering and fertilizer

Evergreen holly with red berries on the balcony in the pot care

As can already be seen from the fact sheet, the European evergreen holly prefers a shady to semi-shady location. This makes it perfect for those areas in the garden where it is otherwise difficult to find suitable plants, as well as for north balconies or others that receive little sunlight. To avoid waterlogging when it rains, remove the saucer.

Leaves and berries of holly are poisonous to humans and animals


Once it has become accustomed to its location in the garden, evergreen holly is hardy – but holly in a pot is only hardy to a certain extent. There are more sensitive varieties that you should protect with fleece even in the garden, if they are in a windy place. Potted plants on the balcony and terrace are also hardy to some extent and can even withstand frost. The real problem is that they should not be watered during frost, because the roots will freeze. However, water the plants also need in winter, as soon as the upper layer of soil is dry. For this reason, during prolonged periods of frost, it is best to put them in a cold garage for watering, but then with a saucer, as the drier root ball now absorbs water more heavily in winter.

Fertilization is not mandatory for garden plants, but you can still do the plant some good in the spring with low-lime rhododendron fertilizer, leaf compost or manure. Potted plants need to be fertilized once between April and September.

Pruning holly

Combine winterberry as a small tree in a tub with other evergreen plants or winter heather

When it comes to pruning this beautiful plant, there are no rules. You can cut it when you want and how you want. That’s why the evergreen holly is so popular as a hedge and ornamental shrub. You can also shape the holly like a tree and turn it into an eye-catcher as well.

Underplant and combine in the tub on the balcony.

Combine holly in the garden with forsythia, hydrangea, daisies and coneflower

Finding suitable companion plants for the garden is not particularly difficult – forsythia, hydrangea, daisy or coneflower, for example, as well as lavender, catnip or ornamental sage. For container planting, things are different, because finding plants with the same low requirements and winter hardiness is anything but easy. For one thing, you can choose another evergreen plant as a combination partner for the evergreen holly – boxwood, dwarf pine, Japanese spindle bush and mock berry, for example.

Evergreen holly - fact sheet for the garden and container plant

For underplanting the evergreen holly is suitable, for example, winter heather , also called snow heather, which delights with its flowers from December to April. Do not necessarily have to have flowers and berries, you can also add the lemon balm and harvest even during the winter on frost-free days. Or how about lavender, which also does not freeze to death in the container, or strap flower, which is particularly striking with its red leaves against the dark green leaves of holly? For a glazed balcony or a winter garden, you can also choose plants that are not hardy, but still quite cold-resistant: Cyclamen and pansies, for example, or ivy (as an accent, since very similar leaves that are otherwise not noticeable). Even a simple layer of moss looks very sympathetic. You can get more specific advice about combination partners at your favorite nursery.

Holly is a protected species and is a popular decorative material at Christmas