With Nellie Stevens holly, you can create a perimeter of shrubs around your property to increase privacy and enjoy the dark green, evergreen leaves all year-round. To decide if Nellie Stevens holly is right for you, read our guide to learn what the shrub looks like and how to grow it.

Nelly Stevens Holly Overview

Fruit size0.3 inches in diameter
Fruit usesDecoration
Fruit colorRed
RegionSouth, West Coast
Hardiness zone6–9
Growing seasonYear-round
ResistanceDeer, drought
SusceptibilityCanker, chlorosis, root rot

What Does Nellie Stevens Holly Look Like?

The Nellie Stevens holly shrub has dark green leaves, which keep a glossy color throughout the year. The leaves have one to three sharp spikes on them and produce white flowers that have small red berries with a diameter of 0.3 inches. On average, Nellie Stevens holly shrubs can grow to be 15 to 25 feet tall and five to 10 feet wide.

Growing and Maintaining Nellie Stevens Holly

Here’s the ideal growth environment for Nellie Stevens holly.

Sun, Shade, and Soil

Nellie Stevens holly can survive in full sun or partial shade and prefers well-drained soil with a slightly acidic or neutral pH of 5.0 to 7.0. Holly can also survive in slightly alkaline soil, heavy clay, dry sand, and almost any other type of soil.


Apply one to two inches of compost every spring and make sure it doesn’t extend past the drip line, which is an imaginary line where droplets fall from the outermost branches. In late fall, apply one cup of 10-5-5 fertilizer per plant. The 10-5-5 fertilizer contains 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 5% potassium. A higher percentage of nitrogen helps keep the holly leaves green.

After spreading the fertilizer, apply two inches of organic mulch composed of pine needles or wood chips to regulate soil temperature and control weeds. If the holly leaves turn yellow in the summer, you can use another cup of fertilizer to help with growth.


Nellie Stevens holly needs about one inch of water per week in the spring and summer. The best way to tell if your shrub needs water is to stick your finger in the soil and make sure the top two inches are moist—be careful not to overwater the shrub, as waterlogged holly dies. Because holly is drought-tolerant, you don’t need to water this plant in the fall or winter.

Ideal Hardiness Zones

Holly trees grow best in hardiness zones 6–9, which have warm to moderate temperatures. This type of climate is mostly contained to western and southern states.

How to Plant Nellie Stevens Holly

Planting several of holly shrubs in a row is common, but make sure to plant them five to six feet apart. This allows the Nellie Stevens hollies to grow together and create a living wall of greenery.

  1. To plant your holly, dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and with a height equal to the height of the root ball.
  2. Stand the holly upright in the hole and fill in soil around the roots.
  3. Secure the soil around the plant and soak the soil in water for a few minutes.
  4. Continue watering every two or three days until you see signs of new growth.

Nellie Stevens holly bushes won’t bloom until they’re three to five years old. Their white flowers will bloom in the spring, and the red berries will stay on the bush throughout the winter season. Because holly can live for up to 100 years, you only have to plant them once in your lifetime.

Tolerance and Susceptibility

Nellie Stevens holly is susceptible to a variety of diseases, including canker, chlorosis, and root rot. Canker causes holes to form on branches and stems, which leads to the browning of leaves and, eventually, death. Chlorosis is caused by an iron deficiency in the plant and can be identified by the tell-tale sign of pale green or yellow leaves with dark green veins.

Root rot is caused by overwatering, poor soil drainage, or a poorly functioning root system and causes the root to rot, eventually killing the shrub.

Nellie Stevens holly can survive mild droughts, so while overwatering causes root rot and kills the plant, underwatering has no effect on the plant, which is why it can grow in drier climates.

Nellie Stevens holly is resistant to animals because of its pointy leaves and poisonous berries. However, certain insects like the scale, leaf miner, and mite may eat away at the leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Final Thoughts

Nellie Stevens holly is a fast-growing, low-maintenance plant that can create a privacy barrier around your home. Not to mention, this evergreen plant maintains its color all year-round, providing a pleasing aesthetic for your backyard. Consider buying this type of holly online or from your local home improvement store.

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