When I moved into my current house, there were two fairly large "spiky" bushes. They grow fairly quick and I have to prune it quite a few times a year. I ended up buying an electric hedge trimmer to help speed things up, but I still end up spending more time on it than I'd like. Plus, they are so tall that I need to carry a ladder out to prune the tops.

I notice that other people have bushes in their yards that they cut down very short in the winter. I've never done this so I'm looking for some advice to make sure I don't kill the bushes or make them hideous looking.

Here's some pictures:

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1) Is this the type of plant that can be cut short without killing it?

2) Is there a certain time of year that is best for cutting?

3) Is there a limit on how low I can cut?

2 Answers 2


That looks remarkably like common holly, or Ilex aquifolium, which gets up to 80 feet tall if left unpruned. It is difficult to keep it small once it gets past the first 6 or 7 years because it grows quite rapidly after that time. You don't mention seeing any berries on it either, so this may be a male plant and will never produce any, though rigorous pruning may deter berry formation even on a female plant.

The other thing I can see is that the wall it's close to might be the wall of a building or house - if it is, I'd suggest you remove the holly, because unless you rigorously keep it pruned back hard, its root spread may threaten the foundations of the building. There are plenty of other evergreen shrubs available that won't get so large and will be a lot easier to maintain.

  • In the US known as "American Holly". It has impressively dense foliage ' Nov 24, 2019 at 17:23
  • I really second Bamboo: I think you should remove the tree: never plant a tree so near a wall. Nov 25, 2019 at 9:54

It looks like a holly tree to me. They are usually fairly slow growing, but yours looks well established and they can reach 50 feet tall in a hundred years or more.

A good pruning technique is try to remove as much growth from the interior as possible (cutting some branches right back to the trunk), rather than trimming off the outside growth all over with a hedge trimmer.

Of course pruning a holly tree that way can be a "prickly" experience!

Over time, thinning out the center will tend to slow down the growth of the tree. Branches that are crowded together will try to grow outwards and upwards to get more light, but if the tree is more "open" they won't need to do that so much.

This looks like an evergreen holly, in which case the best time for major pruning is late spring, when you can get rid of any wood that has been damaged over the winter, there is less chance of cold temperatures damaging any new growth that appears after the pruning.

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