planting, cultivation, maintenance and pruning

If it is an ideal ornamental shrub to be beautiful fences or for topiary art. Due to its extraordinary longevity, it has long been associated with death, as a link between heaven and earth. Therefore, due to this symbolism, it is often found in cemeteries. Yew is poisonous except for the aril pulp which is the red berry produced by female specimens. The seeds and needles of the holly are also poisonous. So be very careful.

The holly, a conifer with an excellent lifespan

It can reach up to 20 meters in heightif (Taxus baccata) is a non-resinous conifer found in Europe and North America. It is a tree whose lifespan is one of the longest. For example, the oldest holly in France located in Brittany (Pommerit-le-Vicomte), estimated to be between 1500 and 2000 years old. The oldest holly in Europe, 2000 years old is located in Scotland. However, fir forests have become rare in Europe due to the toxicity of the tree. A stand of holly trees is called yes.

The holly has a straight and sturdy trunk crowned with branches from its base. Its shape is rather irregular. This evergreen conifer consists of long, flat, non-spiny, dark green needles.

The poison of the pur is taxian alkaloid too dangerous. According to this specialized site for treesthe Gauls used this poison for hunting and named it I voswhich would give its name to the holly tree.

Credit: Matthew J Thomas/iStock


Thinking of planting a hedge? The cigar is a hardy conifer slow growing prized for its dense foliage and ease of maintenance. It supports negative temperatures down to -15°C. Another advantage is that it tolerates pollution well. For a fence about 1m80 to 2m tall, respect a distance from 80 cm to 1 meter among the plants. Indeed, as it grows, the pur takes up space and therefore it is necessary to foresee its future girth which can exceed 4 meters. As a single subject, the Taxus baccata is also a good candidate for topiary art. After planting, water regularly for two years to facilitate rooting.

The holly is a hardy tree that appreciates:

  • Cool ground and moist atmosphere
  • Exposure to sun or shade
  • Acidic or calcareous soil
if topiary
Credits: Michel Viard/iStock


The female pur produces edible bright red berries (arils). Caution, with the exception of arils, all parts of the pur are poisonous : the bark, the needle and the seed contained in fruits. Only the carmine pulp can be eaten when ripe from September to December. The aril has a sweet and mucilaginous taste that allows it to be eaten in jam.
Never forget this the seed is poisonous. This is why it is not recommended to eat holly fruit. Be very careful and if in doubt, don’t eat the fruit.

The bay is extra loved by the birds that do not digest the seeds and scatter them. Mammals and especially horses are also very fond of berries. However, a single bite is deadly for horses, as they ingest the seed and are very sensitive to taxine.

if aril

Credit: ajt/iStock

Pruning and care

For a hedge, prefer pruning in early spring (stimulation pruning) or autumn. In topiary art, perform a light pruning in August. However, remember to pick up all pruning debris to avoid accidental ingestion.

The holly is a robust tree that is not afraid of diseases. Although it is not very demanding in terms of maintenance, it still needs special attention in terms of watering at the beginning of its life: be regular in the first two years and in case of drought.