How to Prune a Weeping Yaupon Holly

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The botanical name for the weeping yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, is indicative of the berries’ ability to induce vomiting, as was practiced by coastal Indian tribes preparing for battle. This showy holly takes on a wild form with its irregularly shaped branches that “weep” by arching toward the ground. The trunks of the holly are crooked, adding to its unusual and distinctive shape. Small flowers bloom in the spring and translucent red berries appear in the fall and attract wildlife. Gather the right tools and follow a few steps to effectively prune your weeping yaupon holly.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand-held pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Gardening gloves

Follow the pruning rule of three: first prune for safety, followed by health of the tree. and then visual appeal.

Prune the weeping yaupon holly after it flowers in the spring to ensure vigorous growth.

Stand a little away from the tree and assess its natural shape and how you want it to grow.

Put on your gardening gloves and start pruning with your hand-held pruning shears.

Prune branches by cutting at an angle so the branch is cut on the diagonal, not the vertical. Use your shears to cut back small branches that alter the natural or desired shape. If a branch is more than 5 cm across, consider if it must be cut to improve the shape of the holly; if it doesn’t, leave it alone. For larger branches, use the lopping shears rather than the pruning shears.

Examine your work by standing away from the tree. Periodically assessing your work helps to ensure you don’t over-prune or cut back the wrong branches.

Remove branches or growth that stem from a weak “V”-shaped angle versus a stronger “U”-shaped angle. A “V” shape is more likely to break, compromising the strength of the holly. Remove any dead or diseased branches at any time of year.

Remove undesirable sprouts along the base of the holly.

Consider creating a skirt effect by cutting away some of the lower branches so the upper branches fall no lower than the bottom half or bottom third of the three, exposing the trunks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t prune trees near utility lines – call the utility to take care of the pruning. You also shouldn’t prune the holly if it is susceptible to pests such as oak wilt.

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