I have six winterberry bushes that have never produced berries (five years). I discovered these “girls” needed a “boyfriend” so I got them two, but now I need to know if I should prune the bushes back or leave them alone and see what happens?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Sonja: Yes, indeed these deciduous female hollies need a male that flowers at the same time to pollinate them. One male can pollinate up to five females within an acre, so two will be sufficient for you. They do not need to be planted right next to each other, just within the same acre. In urban areas it is likely that your neighbor might have a male to pollinate your females, but in rural areas this would not be the case. So, in terms of pruning it really is not required unless you are removing dead, diseased, or crossing branches. You did not give any indication that your hollies were not healthy so this should not be necessary in your case. Pruning can also be done to thin and shape your plants, but otherwise they will require little to no pruning if planted in a location where they can grow to their mature size. Thinning your shrubs will allow more light to filter through the plant and rejuvenate older plants, but your hollies are still young and not being able to see them I cannot say for certain, but I would just let them be for this year. Hopefully this time next year your females will be full of berries. Make sure your shrubs are planted in a space where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct light, and if you have not fed them recently you may consider giving the females some Holly-Tone this spring. Let the males become established for a year and then feed them as well. If you want more information on thinning your plants, visit http://ces.ca.uky.edu/floyd-files/HO59.pdf
. This is a publication available to home gardeners provided by the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with the University of Kentucky and other land grant universities.