The holly genus includes about 400 species of shrubs and trees. They are native to all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Many people use them to enhance home security due to their thorns and prickly leaves; but, they also lend a decorative element to many gardens and yards.

Home Security Benefits

Hollies sprout thorns on their limbs and twigs and their leaves also feature serrated, prickly edges. A would-be intruder brushing by a holly tree or shrub would experience at least some discomfort and possibly injury.


These plants grow from two to twenty-five meters (about six and half to eighty feet) high but seldom grow more than five and a half meters (about eighteen feet) wide. The genus includes both deciduous and evergreen species. The bark is normally light in color and the wood is heavy, hard, and white. The distinctive aesthetic characteristic of hollies is the combination of green, serrated leaves and berries that are usually red, giving the plant a striking appearance. Some varieties of holly grow leaves that cast a bluish hue. These plants also sprout male and female flowers on different plants. The flowers are usually white. Birds sometimes find shelter within these plants and it is a natural nesting ground for some species. Some people consider the presence of birds an enhancement to the aesthetics of their property.


Hollies prefer to grow in full sun but they tolerate partial shade. The soil must be well-drained, acidic, and nutritionally rich. Leaves turning yellow indicate that the soil's pH level is too high or that the plant is not receiving sufficient nitrogen. Although the soil should be well drained, you should water it frequently. Hollies respond to pruning with more profuse growth, but they are generally slow-growing plants. The genus does not tolerate windy conditions. A number of pests feed on species of holly. Larvae of the Double-Striped Pug Moth attack the flowers. Holly is the only source of food for a species of moth known by the scientific name bucculatrix ilecella and another species known as The Engrailed also feeds on holly. Other insect pests include scale, bud moths, and red mites.


The berries are slightly toxic and cause digestive ailments in people however, they represent an important food source for bird species and other animals. In some countries the leaves are used to brew tea, such as the South American Yerba mate. The high quality of the wood makes it useful for cabinetry and artwork. For example, it has been a favorite for the production of white chess pieces. The leaves and berries of the plant are traditionally used for Christmas wreaths, one of the most highly recognizable symbols of that holiday.