What To Do When Hollies Outgrow Their Space

What to do when Hollies outgrow their space? That’s a hard question to answer but at least you have options. Typical responses to an overgrown landscape is to:

  1. Avoid the area and close the drapes so you don’t have to see the overgrown mess.
  2. Spend a day attaching each plant to the back of a vehicle with a chain, drive away quickly and repeat.
  3. If you have a tolerance for some pain, cut the plants back hard and let time and Mother Nature do its thing.

While doing spring garden maintenance at a clients house, the conversation eventually turned to what we should do with the Hollies flanking the front door. We were asked to trim them but in my eyes and the wife’s eyes, these Hollies were already way too big. It was time for drastic measures that trimming the outermost edge of the plant wasn’t going to solve.

There are three ways to control plant height, trimming the outer most edge of a plant, heading back, the process of hand pruning from the inside out and rejuvenation pruning, a more drastic approach.

There are so many advantages to heading back vs trimming the outermost edge of the plant yet most plants are trimmed from the outside because people are scared to try anything else because of the fear of doing something wrong. The problem is, hedge trimmers are far more detrimental to a plants health than people realize. At some point, a different type of trimming will need to take place if you are trimming to control height.

Overgrown Hollies trimmed into an unnatural shade
Rejuvenation pruning
2 months after rejuvenation pruning
5 months after rejuvenation planting

After some drastic pruning, the plants are at a much more comfortable height. Next spring, we’ll start shaping the plant with hand pruners. From here on out, heading back, will allow us to manage plant height more effectively while also allowing the plant to grow in a more natural shape. Yes, heading back is more time consuming than starting up the hedge trimmer but over time, it’s the only way to keep a plant healthy and looking natural.  It’s also the only way to manage plant height for the long term.

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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