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The hollyleaf cherry is the most widely distributed subspecies of the native holly in California. It grows in the chaparral, sage scrub and oak woodland plant communities. Rounded leaves are deep green and have strongly serrated margins; large clusters of softly fragrant cream colored flowers occur in spring. Many fruit are produced each year that attract birds and other wildlife.

Hollyleaf cherry is well suited for erosion control on slopes, habitat restoration and in ornamental gardens as background shrubs. It is also one of the best choices for use as a medium to large clipped hedge where it can be clipped for very neat character. Old plants can grow quite large in wild habitat, but plants in the garden are usually much smaller and can be pruned to any size. It is well adapted to heat, sun and low amounts of summer moisture.

Water Needs

Hollyleaf cherry is well adapted to normal winter rains and low amounts of supplemental water during summer throughout the Inland Empire. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; young plants will grow faster and larger with the higher amounts of supplemental moisture in this range.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Upright, Mounding, Low-branching, Dense
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 5 ft. - 30 ft.
Width: 5 ft. - 30 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: Cream
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Moist soil, Deep soil
Exposure Adaptations: Moderate shade, Heat, Drought, All day sun, Partial sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Screening, Restoration, Parks and open space, Foundations, Foliage accent plant, Flowering accent plant, Espalier, Banks, Background plant, Attracts bees, Attracts butterflies, Hedge


Prune by heading back as much of the new-ish growth as desired (light cut back) and shape to encourage long-term nice form and branching pattern in May (1). Feel free to lightly prune outer branches if shaping is needed in early Fall, but try to reserve any more substantial pruning for late spring (1). Pruning can be used to shape hollyleaf cherry into a small tree or dense hedge. If hedging, remember to taper the hedge, narrower at the top, and wider at the base, so it gets good sunlight access across the entire plant (2). Hollyleaf cherry can be slow growing the first couple years, depending on conditions, but often increases growth rate once it has been in the ground a while (3).



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