Holly Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Ilex Plants


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Welcome to the ultimate guide on growing Holly (Ilex spp.), the beloved plant known for its stunning foliage, vibrant berries, and cultural significance. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to know to successfully cultivate and care for these evergreen beauties. Get ready to learn about the different varieties, optimal growing conditions, and essential maintenance practices to help your Holly thrive all year round. Let’s dive in!

Benefits of Growing Your Own Holly (Ilex spp.)

Benefits of Growing Holly at Home:

  • Provides year-round greenery and visual interest to your landscape
  • Produces bright red or orange berries in the fall, providing winter interest and food for wildlife
  • Can be used as a decorative holiday plant, with its prickly leaves and bright berries symbolizing Christmas
  • Some holly species have medicinal properties, such as reducing fever and inflammation
  • Can be pruned and shaped into hedges or topiaries for an elegant and formal look
  • Some holly varieties are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance once established

General Information About Holly (Ilex spp.)

Plant Family: Aquifoliaceae
Plant Latin Name: Ilex spp.

Plant Variations Available

Holly, also known as Ilex spp., is a genus of around 480 species of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees. These plants are indigenous to temperate and tropical regions, with the majority of species found in Asia and the Americas. However, several species also grow in Europe and Africa.


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One of the most well-known and commonly cultivated species is the American holly (Ilex opaca), which is native to the southeastern United States. It is an evergreen tree that typically grows up to 50 feet tall and produces glossy, spiny leaves, and bright red berries in the winter.

Another species of holly that is often used for landscaping and ornamental purposes is the English holly (Ilex aquifolium). This tree has dense, dark green leaves with sharp spines and produces bright red berries in the winter. It is native to western Asia and Europe, but has been widely introduced to other regions.

The Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) is another popular species for landscaping, particularly in southern states where it thrives in warmer climates. This holly produces small, glossy leaves with spines and black, red, or yellow berries.

Other species of holly include the Japanese holly (Ilex crenata), which is often used for bonsai, and the Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), which is native to the southeastern United States and is often used in wetland restoration projects.


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Overall, holly is a diverse and versatile genus with a range of species that have been used for a variety of purposes, from landscaping to medicinal and mystical purposes.

Germinating Holly (Ilex spp.)

Preferred Zones

Holly (Ilex spp.) is a highly valued shrub or small tree grown for its ornamental beauty, evergreen foliage, and festive berries. If you’re planning on growing holly outdoors, it’s crucial to choose the best zones to ensure optimal growth and success.

Holly plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9, which means they can tolerate winter temperatures as low as -20°F (-29°C) to 20°F (-6°C) and summer temperatures as high as 90°F (32°C) to 100°F (38°C). In these zones, holly plants can grow into healthy, robust specimens, producing an abundance of shiny green leaves and bright red berries.

The best zones for growing holly outdoors include:

Zone 5: This zone covers the northernmost parts of the country, including parts of the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest. Some suitable holly species for this zone include American holly (Ilex opaca), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and inkberry (Ilex glabra).

Zone 6: This zone covers a large portion of the country, including the Midwest, Northeast, and some parts of the West Coast. Some suitable holly species for this zone include Blue holly (Ilex meserveae), China holly (Ilex cornuta), and Nellie Stevens holly (Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’).

Zone 7: This zone covers a good portion of the country, including the South, Midwest, and parts of the West Coast. Some suitable holly species for this zone include Foster holly (Ilex x attenuata ‘Fosteri’), Dwarf Burford holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Dwarf Burford’), and Robin holly (Ilex vomitoria).

Zone 8: This zone covers a large portion of the country, including the South, Southwest, and parts of the West Coast. Some suitable holly species for this zone include Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), Savanah holly (Ilex x attenuata ‘Savannah’), and Burford holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’).

Zone 9: This zone covers the southernmost parts of the country, including Florida, Texas, and parts of California. Some suitable holly species for this zone include Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), Japanese holly (Ilex c

Sowing Instructions

When it comes to sowing Holly (Ilex spp.), there are a few key things that you need to keep in mind. First off, timing is everything – ideally, you should be sowing Holly seeds in the fall, so that they have time to stratify over the winter before germinating in the spring.

Secondly, you want to make sure that you are pre-treating your seeds properly. Holly seeds have a hard, impermeable outer shell that needs to be broken down in order for the embryo to sprout. There are a couple of ways to do this: you can either scarify the seeds (i.e. physically scar the outer seed coat with a file or sandpaper), or you can soak them in water overnight to soften the shell.

Once your seeds are pre-treated, it’s time to plant them. The best method for sowing Holly seeds is to use a seed tray or individual pots filled with a well-draining soil mix, such as a blend of peat moss, perlite, and sand.

Sow the seeds no more than 1/4 inch deep, and lightly tamp down the soil to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Then water the seeds thoroughly and cover the tray or pots with plastic wrap to create a mini greenhouse effect.

Finally, place the tray or pots in a warm, bright location – a grow light or sunny windowsill is ideal. Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged!) and you should see germination within 2-3 weeks.


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Once your Holly seedlings are big enough to handle, you can transplant them into larger containers or out into the garden. With a little bit of patience and TLC, you’ll have a beautiful Holly tree in no time!

Preparation Advice

If you’re considering growing Holly (Ilex spp.), there are a few key things to keep in mind as you prepare for the task ahead.

First, it’s important to choose the right equipment. You’ll need a good pair of pruning shears, as well as a sturdy rake to keep your garden beds tidy. Depending on the size of your planting area, a pair of gloves and a shovel may also come in handy.

Once you have your equipment in order, it’s time to focus on soil preparation. Holly thrives in well-drained soil, so you’ll want to make sure that your garden beds are aerated and that any excess moisture can easily drain away. Incorporating compost or another organic matter can also help to add nutrients to the soil and promote healthy plant growth.

When it comes to planting your Holly, timing is everything. Autumn is generally the best time to plant, giving your new plants plenty of time to establish themselves before winter sets in. Make sure to dig a hole that is deep enough to accommodate the entire root ball, and gently loosen the soil around the edges to encourage root growth.

Once your Holly plants are established, regular pruning will be essential for maintaining their shape and promoting healthy growth. Keep an eye out for any dead or damaged branches, and make sure to remove them promptly to prevent disease from spreading.

By following these steps and investing in the right equipment, you’ll be well on your way to a successful Holly garden. Just remember to be patient – like any gardening endeavor, it takes time and effort to achieve the lush, vibrant results you’re after.

Germination Tools and Equipment

If you’re looking to germinate Holly (Ilex spp.), there are a few key tools and pieces of equipment you’ll need to ensure the best possible results. Firstly, you’ll need a high-quality Holly seed source, which can be purchased online from reputable suppliers. Once you have your seeds, you’ll need a sterile growing medium, such as a mixture of peat moss and perlite, to plant them in.


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In addition to these basics, there are a few other tools and supplies that can help ensure successful germination. A seed tray with a clear plastic dome will help create a warm, humid environment for your Holly seeds to grow in, while a heating mat can help regulate the temperature of the soil and encourage faster growth.

It’s also important to make sure you have a good light source, as Holly seeds need plenty of bright, indirect light to thrive. A fluorescent grow light or a south-facing window can both work well, depending on your setup. And don’t forget about watering – you’ll need a spray bottle or watering can to keep your soil moist, but not too wet.

Overall, the key to successful Holly germination is attention to detail and a commitment to providing the right environment for your seeds to grow. With the right tools and equipment, you can set yourself up for success and enjoy beautiful, healthy Holly plants in no time.

Growing Holly (Ilex spp.)

Light Requirements

Holly is a beautiful ornamental shrub that can add a touch of elegance to any garden. If you are considering growing holly, it is important to note that this plant has specific lighting needs that must be met in order for it to thrive.

Holly plants typically require full sun or partial shade to grow healthily. This means that they need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, although they can tolerate some shade if necessary. It’s important to note, however, that too much shade can cause the plant to become spindly and lack healthy growth.


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When considering the lighting needs for holly plants, it’s important to keep in mind the location of your garden or planting area. Hotter climates may require holly to be placed in a more shaded area, whereas colder climates may need full sun to assist the plant’s photosynthesis process.

If growing holly indoors or in a greenhouse, supplemental lighting may be required. LED grow lights can be an effective option for providing the specific wavelengths of light needed for healthy plant growth.

Overall, holly plants require specific lighting requirements for optimal growth and health. If these needs are met, they can provide a beautiful addition to any landscape.

Temperature Requirements

If you’re looking to cultivate healthy Holly plants (Ilex spp.), one of the most important factors to consider is temperature. These plants thrive in a range of temperatures, but for optimal growth, you’ll need to pay attention to a few key details.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that the temperature requirements for Holly can vary slightly based on the specific variety you’re working with. However, most Holly plants prefer moderate to cool temperatures, with ideal growing conditions falling somewhere between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re growing Holly indoors, you’ll want to ensure that the temperature stays within this range year-round. Outdoor growers may find that this is more difficult to maintain, depending on their climate. In general, Holly plants can tolerate some degree of cold (down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit) as long as it’s not for extended periods of time.

However, it’s worth noting that hot temperatures can be detrimental to Holly growth. Plants that are exposed to temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for prolonged periods are more susceptible to wilt and sunburn. If you know that your growing environment is prone to bouts of high heat, it may be worth investing in shading or other methods to help regulate the temperature.

In terms of seasonal temperature changes, Holly plants are fairly versatile. They can handle both cool winters and hot summers, as long as these shifts occur gradually rather than suddenly. However, if you live in an area with extreme temperature changes, you may want to consider adding some additional insulation to protect your plants.


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In summary, if you want to grow healthy Holly plants, you’ll need to pay attention to their temperature needs. Aim for temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, avoid prolonged exposure to temperatures over 80 degrees, and ensure that any seasonal temperature changes are gradual rather than sudden. With a little attention to detail, your Holly plants have the potential to thrive for years to come.

My Favorite Tools For Growing Holly (Ilex spp.)

Are you looking for the best tools and equipment for caring for and maintaining healthy Holly (Ilex spp.) plants? Here are some must-have essentials that will make taking care of your holly garden a breeze:

1. Pruning shears: Holly bushes require regular pruning to maintain their shape and health, and a good pair of pruning shears will be your go-to tool. Make sure to choose a pair that is sturdy, sharp and easy to handle.

2. Gloves: Holly bushes have spiky leaves that can be a challenge for even the most seasoned gardener. Invest in a pair of high-quality gloves that offer protection and comfort while working with your holly trees.

3. Fertilizer: Holly bushes need regular feeding to maintain healthy growth and vibrant foliage. Choose a well-balanced fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to keep your holly looking its best.

4. Mulch: A layer of organic mulch around the base of your holly bushes will help retain moisture and suppress weeds. This will help keep your holly plants healthy and looking their best.

5. Watering can or hose: Holly bushes require consistent watering to maintain healthy growth. Make sure you have a reliable watering system in place, whether it’s a watering can or a hose with a wand attachment.


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By having these essential tools and equipment on hand, you’ll be well on your way to growing strong and healthy Holly bushes that will thrive for years to come!

Preferred Soil Type

Holly plants, belonging to the Ilex species, are known for their vibrant green foliage and bright red berries that add color and cheer to any landscape. These evergreen trees and shrubs are hardy, adaptable, and easy to grow in the right soil conditions.

When it comes to soil requirements, holly plants prefer well-draining, moist soil that is rich in nutrients. The ideal pH level for growing healthy holly plants ranges from 5.0 to 6.5, which means the soil should be slightly acidic. If your soil is too alkaline, you may need to add sulfur or vinegar to lower the pH level.

To ensure that the soil is nutrient-rich, you can incorporate organic matter such as compost or aged manure into the soil. The holly plants will benefit from the added nutrients and moisture retention that come with these organic amendments.

It’s important to note that holly plants do not thrive in waterlogged soil, so be sure to avoid overwatering or poorly-draining soil. Additionally, holly plants can be sensitive to high levels of salts, so avoid fertilizing with high-salt fertilizers.


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Overall, providing holly plants with well-draining, nutrient-rich, slightly acidic soil will help them thrive and produce the beautiful foliage and berries that make them so beloved. By following these simple soil requirements, you’ll be on your way to growing healthy and happy holly plants in your own backyard.

Watering Requirements

If you want to grow healthy Holly, the watering requirements can be summarized in one word: Consistency. These evergreens require regular, even watering to thrive. Overwatering or underwatering can both lead to problems, so it’s important to get it right.

To start, make sure your Holly is planted in well-draining soil. Standing water can cause root rot and other issues. Once you have good soil, begin by watering deeply once a week. This will encourage deep root growth and help the plant withstand drought.

During hot or dry spells, you may need to water more often. Pay attention to the top inch of soil – if it feels dry, it’s time to water. Be careful not to let the soil dry out completely, as this can cause leaf drop and other stress.

In the winter, you may need to cut back on watering. Holly is relatively cold hardy and can withstand some drought, but if the soil becomes completely dry, the roots can be damaged.

Overall, the key to watering Holly is to be consistent and attentive. Monitor the soil and adjust your watering schedule as needed. With good care, your Holly will be a beautiful and healthy addition to your landscape.

What You Need To Know About Fertilizing Holly (Ilex spp.)

Holly plants (Ilex spp.) are a popular choice for adding vibrant color and texture to gardens, landscapes, and even holiday decorations. In order to maintain healthy and vigorous growth, it is essential to fertilize them properly.

Holly plants benefit from a balanced fertilizer that contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). You can easily find specialized fertilizers for holly plants at your local nursery or garden center. Be sure to read the label instructions and follow the recommended application rates.

It is best to fertilize holly plants in late fall or early spring, just before the growing season begins. Avoid fertilizing during the summer or in hot weather, as this can lead to fertilizer burn and damage the plant.

Also, consider the soil type when fertilizing. If the soil is too alkaline or acidic, it can affect the uptake of nutrients. You can adjust the pH level of the soil by adding soil amendments such as sulfur or lime.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure to spread it evenly around the base of the plant, and then water thoroughly. This will help the nutrients to penetrate the soil and reach the roots.


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In addition to fertilization, holly plants also require regular watering, proper sunlight, and adequate pruning to thrive. By following these simple tips, you can grow healthy and beautiful holly plants in your garden or landscape.

My Favorite Fertilizers For Holly (Ilex spp.)

If you are looking to fertilize your Holly plants, there are a few key things you should keep in mind to ensure their health and vitality. Holly is a hardy plant that can thrive in a wide variety of conditions, but it does require proper nutrients to grow to its full potential.

One of the best fertilizers for Holly is a slow-release or controlled-release formula, which provides a steady supply of nutrients over time. This is particularly important for younger plants, as they need more consistent nourishment to develop strong roots and branches.

Another important aspect of fertilizing Holly is ensuring that the soil pH is within the appropriate range. Holly prefers slightly acidic soil, with a pH range of around 5.0 to 6.5. If the soil is too alkaline, it can limit the plant’s ability to take up certain nutrients, leading to stunted growth or other issues.

To help maintain the proper pH balance, consider using a fertilizer that contains sulfur or other acidifying agents, which can help to lower the soil pH. Additionally, regular soil testing can help you stay on top of any changes in pH levels over time.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Holly plants generally don’t require as much fertilizer as other plants, as they are fairly slow-growing and can be prone to over-fertilization. As such, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosages and avoid applying too much fertilizer at once.

With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to fertilizing your Holly plants and helping them grow into healthy, beautiful specimens. Happy gardening!

Harvesting Holly (Ilex spp.)

Time To Maturity

Holly is a slow-growing plant that can take several years to reach maturity. From sprouting to maturity, it can take anywhere from 5 to 12 years depending on the variety and growing conditions.

During the first year of growth, holly sprouts will typically grow only a few inches tall and may not produce any leaves. However, with adequate sunlight and moisture, the plant will begin to grow more vigorously in subsequent years.

As the plant grows, it will produce more branches and leaves, eventually reaching its full size and shape. Depending on the variety of holly, this can range from a small shrub to a tree that grows up to 50 ft tall.

In addition to proper sunlight and moisture, holly also requires well-draining soil and occasional fertilization to grow healthy and strong. With care and patience, your holly plant will eventually reach maturity, producing its signature red berries and adding beauty to your landscape for years to come.

Harvest Instructions

Harvesting Holly (Ilex spp.)

Holly, known for its vibrant red berries and glossy green leaves, can be harvested for a variety of purposes. Whether you are using holly for decorative wreaths or for medicinal purposes, harvesting holly can be a process that is both simple and rewarding.

Here are the steps for harvesting holly:

1. Timing: The ideal time to harvest holly is in the fall when the berries have ripened fully. But berries may ripen at different times depending on the species!

2. Preparation: Before harvesting, make sure you have the necessary tools. Secateurs or shears will be needed to prune holly branches.

3. Location: If you’re planning on harvesting holly berries, you can often find them on trees that are growing either in the wild or in gardens. Always ask for permission if you’re harvesting from private land.

4. Cutting: When cutting the branches, make sure to take only 1/3 of the branch length to prevent damage to the plant. Use the secateurs or shears to make a clean cut just above a leaf joint or node.

5. Preservation: Once the cut branches are harvested, remove any dead or damaged leaves or berries, and place the cuttings in a container of water to help preserve them. Berries tend to last for around two weeks before they begin to rot, which varies again by species.


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6. Storage: If you are using holly for wreaths, store the cut branches in a cool place out of direct sunlight to help prolong their lifespan. You can also choose to hang the branches upside down to dry them out slowly.

7. Safety: Make sure you use gloves while handling holly berries, as ingestion can lead to sickness.

Harvesting holly can be a fun and rewarding process, offering both beautiful decorations during the festive season and a plethora of healthy nutrients in the form of the berries. Always remember to respect the plant and only take what you need, so that others may enjoy the beauty of holly in the future. Happy harvesting!

My Favorite Tools For Harvest Time

Harvesting Holly: Tools and Equipment You Need

If you have ever wanted to add a touch of festive greenery to your home decor during the holidays, look no further than holly! These iconic evergreen shrubs with their glossy, spiny leaves, and bright red berries make for stunning accents in wreaths, garlands, and centerpieces. But before you run out into the woods or your garden to pick some holly, you need to make sure you have the right tools and equipment for a successful harvest.

Here are the essential items you need for harvesting holly:

1. A pair of sharp pruning shears or scissors. You want to make clean cuts on the stem without damaging the rest of the plant. Avoid using dull or blunt tools as they can crush or tear the stems, which can lead to infections and poor quality.

2. A pair of work gloves. Holly bushes have sharp spines along their stems and leaves that can prick your skin and cause irritation. Wearing thick gloves with good grip will protect your hands and allow you to handle the cut branches or berries with ease.

3. A container or basket with a handle. You need something sturdy and spacious to hold the holly branches while you cut them. Look for a container with high sides and a wide opening to prevent the leaves and berries from falling out or getting crushed.

4. Optional: a ladder, a tarp or sheet, and a spray bottle with water. Depending on the height and shape of your holly plants, you may need a ladder or a step stool to reach the top branches. Make sure you position the ladder on a steady and flat surface and avoid overreaching or leaning too far. A tarp or a sheet can be useful to catch the fallen leaves or berries and prevent them from scattering all over the ground. You can also moisten the leaves with a spray bottle to keep them fresh and plump.

5. Tips for safe and sustainable harvesting. When harvesting holly, make sure you do not take too much from a single plant and avoid damaging the branches or the bark. Select only the best-looking holly with healthy leaves and berries and avoid picking from roadside or polluted areas. Always ask for permission if you plan to harvest from someone else’s property.

By using these tools and following these tips, you can enjoy a bountiful and beautiful harvest of holly for your winter decorations. Happy hunting!

End of Season & Overwintering

When it comes to end of season care or overwintering of Holly plants (Ilex spp.), there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure their continued health and beauty.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that holly plants are generally quite hardy and resilient, meaning they can tolerate cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions better than many other types of plants.

That being said, there are a few steps you can take to give your holly plants an extra boost during the winter months. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Watering: During the fall season, it’s a good idea to make sure your holly plants are well-hydrated before the temperatures drop. This will help them stay healthy and strong during the winter months. However, once the ground begins to freeze, you can reduce your watering schedule to avoid over-saturating the soil.

2. Mulching: Adding a layer of mulch around the base of your holly plants can help protect their roots and keep the soil temperature more stable. Organic materials like leaves, pine needles, or wood chips are perfect for this purpose.

3. Pruning: In the late fall, you may want to do some light pruning to ensure that your holly plants maintain a nice shape and size. Be careful not to remove too much, however, as holly plants can be slow to respond to drastic pruning.

4. Protection: If you live in an area with particularly severe weather conditions, you may want to consider wrapping your holly plants in burlap or some other protective material. This can help shield them from harsh winds or ice damage.

Overall, holly plants are quite hardy and don’t require a great deal of intervention to make it through the winter months. With a little bit of care and attention, you can help keep your holly plants healthy and beautiful year after year.

Final Thoughts on Holly (Ilex spp.)

Congratulations on successfully completing the complete guide to germinating, growing, and harvesting Holly (Ilex spp.)! We hope that through this journey, you have gained a newfound appreciation for this beautiful and versatile plant. Holly is a plant that is highly prized for its vibrant colors, attractive berries, and symbolic value, making it a popular choice for many gardens across the world.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you have learned how to successfully germinate, grow, and harvest Holly with ease. From selecting the right location, soil, and seeds, to understanding the optimal conditions for growth, you now have the knowledge and skills to cultivate Holly that will thrive under your care.

The journey of growing Holly can be challenging at times, but with patience, dedication, and perseverance, the end result is truly rewarding. Whether you are looking to create a hedge, add color to your garden, or simply enjoy the beauty and symbolism of this exquisite plant, Holly is an excellent choice that will never disappoint.

Remember, gardening is a never-ending learning process, and every experience offers new insights and knowledge. We hope that this guide has been informative, inspiring, and helpful, and that it has sparked a lifelong love affair with gardening and the wonderful world of plants.

So go ahead, grab your tools, and start planting your Holly today! Happy gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Holly (Ilex spp.)

1. What is the best soil type for growing holly plants?
Answer: Holly plants grow best in well-drained, acidic soil with a pH range of 5.0-6.5. Organic matter such as compost or aged manure can also be added to the soil to improve its quality.

2. How often should I water my holly plant?
Answer: Holly plants require regular watering, especially during the first few years of growth. They should be watered deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions. During periods of drought or hot weather, more frequent watering may be needed.

3. When is the best time to prune my holly plant?
Answer: The best time to prune holly plants is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This will allow the plant to recover and produce new growth during the growing season. Pruning can also be done in the summer months, but it may result in fewer flowers and berries the following year. It is important to remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches as soon as they are noticed to prevent the spread of infection.

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