We receive this question every year, and yes, you may use the holly berries for seasonal decorations from your holly tree/living fence. Prune or clip out the pieces of branch you need that contain the holly leaves and red berries. Where each clip was made to retrieve the decorative holly berries, new leaf buds will form and in the spring new growth will emerge from these buds. Most evergreens cannot refoliate along the stem, but the hollies can. There are numerous “How To” videos on YouTube to check out for making holiday decorations using hollies.
Like its holiday companion the mistletoe, a holly’s berries are toxic to humans, resulting in nausea and severe stomachaches when ingested, but not so for some animals. The berries are poisonous, but the green leaves have been used in herbal remedies for centuries for medical conditions like dizziness, fever and hypertension, though there is little medical proof of the plant’s effectiveness. Holly berries are an important food source for birds such as thrushes and blackbirds. The birds help scatter the seeds for germination.
Nellie Stevens, Foster, Blue Princess, American, Dragon Lady, Dr. Kassab , San Jose are all cultivars of upright hollies in our metro area that can be lightly pruned for holiday decorations. This past spring of 2016 we had a few 28 degree F nights in late April during the flowering stage of the holly and this stopped or limited the berry production on many holly trees. It did not harm the trees and vegetative or leaf production was profuse in May and early June. Warmer micro habitats inside the D.C. & Baltimore beltways experienced normal holly berry production in 2016.
So enjoy making your holiday decorations with the hollies. Just don’t eat the berries! Happy Holidays!
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