How do I kill and dig up old holly bushes?

raestrJanuary 5, 2006

I have two holly bushes on the front of my house. If I had to guess, I'd say they are 30+ years old. When we first moved in, they were growing as tall as the roof line. I cut them WAY back. They were probably 2 feet tall after I hacked them down. I shaped them into triangles thinking I was being 'artsy.' Well these stupid bushes haven't produced the first red berry in the 5 years I've been at this house. I don't trim them very often because I don't have the time and they hurt! Also, the roots choke just about anything else I try to plant in this particular bed. I hate these bushes. What is the point of suffering with hollies if they aren't going to make pretty red berries? I have tried to kill several offshoots of these bushes with Round-Up. The MOST it does is turn the edge of the leaves brown. Sometimes, not even that. So, what would be the easiest way to dig them up. They are foundation plantings, so they are pretty close to my house.

Any help would be appreciated,


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alex_z7(7 AL)

I also have 2 holly bushes that were planted way too close to the house. It is hard to believe that people don't realize that these plants will grow up and don't need to be less than 2 feet from the house!

My h "trimmed" one earlier this year and cut it down to a small stub sticking out of the ground. Already it's baaaaaackk! We are having work done on the house and have to move our holly bushes. I'm hoping to dig them up(that should be a lot of fun-not!) and move them to a back corner of the yard.

I'm curious to see if any small portions of root left behind will grow, too. It sounds like it might!

I'll be following this thread with interest.....

    Bookmark   January 5, 2006 at 4:34PM
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It's not easy but then anything worthwhile never is. Dig around the bushes as well as you can. If they stick you, cut them off with chainsaw to get rid of the sticky leaves. Be sure to leave a good bit of stump and if possible, some side limbs near what is now the top of the stump. Loosen it as much as you can by digging. When loosened, tie a heavy rope around the stump and tie the rope to your car or truck. Pull on the stump. It may come right out. If not, leave tension on the rope and dig around the stump some more. You may need an axe or hatchet to cut exposed roots. Repeat until the stump comes lose.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2006 at 8:38PM
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This brings back memories! We too inherited two Hollies, one male and one female (the only one of course with berries) planted at opposite ends of house, and almost touching eaves. We tried "limbing up" to make more like small trees...beautiful grey trunks which I really liked, But every darn year we had to constantly rub off new sprouts all over those trunks. Finally we moved...not because of the hollies ~smile~ but I wasn't sorry to see the last of them. Good luck with your removal project. josh

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 10:09PM
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jazzbone(7 AL)

There are many, many types of hollies. Some are grown for their fruit (berries) and others have no fruit at all. And, as Josh mentioned, of the fruiting varieties some have male/female plants and produce berries only on the female (determinate/non-determinate ????)

Whatever... from the sounds of your situation, getting rid of these will be a chore. I'm going with tsmith2579's suggestion to dig and pull them out. Get as many of the roots as you reasonably can. You will probably be finding shoots from the leftover roots for a couple years. I dug out a couple of established crepe myrtles six years ago, taking out a 3' dia. root ball, and I am still killing shoots as they come up through the gravel driveway. I suspect that the hollies will be just as persistent.

I can't imagine planting this type of holly (Nellie R. Stevens, etc.) less than 6' from a house.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 7:22AM
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To get rid of the hollies I planted I finally told hubby to bring the backhoe home and get to work. Nothing could keep the small and low like I thought they would be so WE DUG THEM UP.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 6:15PM
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Rae, have you decided what to plant in the holly's place. When we pulled up our hollies, I replaced them with oakleaf hydrangeas. They are very pretty now, bloom well and make the yard smell good when in bloom. Plant cast iron plants around them for winter color.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 8:39PM
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I want to plant some dwarf hydrangeas called Lemon Daddy. This side of the house faces east, so they would get morning sun.

How does this sound for digging out the hollies. Take a chain saw and cut them down to stumps (thus getting rid of all those painful leaves). Dig around and cut as many of the roots as I can with an ax or hand saw. Somehow attach a chain to the stump and try to pull it out with our ratty old s-10. My only question is will this hurt the truck? I am really dreading this project, but I am sick of these bushes.

Thanks for the advice,

P.S. I did actually see a few red berries really low inside one of the bushes a week or so ago, but it is still not worth the hassle of these bushes. Maybe they only make berries on old wood? Which means I would have to let them grow over the top of the house again before I saw significant berries. No, not worth it.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 1:07PM
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Rae, just remember you can't jerk them out of the ground. Put tension on the chain or rope and let the truck pull them out, not jerk them out. Jerking them out may hurt the truck. You can rock the truck back and forth to put a little more pull on the plants. If they don't come out, leave tension of the chain and dig some more until the roots begin to loosen some more. Something I forgot to mention is you can soak the ground around the roots after you digging around them. This will help the soil to let loose of them. You can also use an axe to cut the stubborn roots when you can see them. This will not be an "easy" process but it isn't too difficult. Just use common sense.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 8:34PM
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michelle11(z7 AL)

One thing that would help is to put a soaker hose on them for a few days. It makes it much easier to get those roots pulled out.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 9:53PM
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What a nightmare!!! Moved in about 6 monthes ago and I have been dieing to work outside. The people we bought the house from just let everything they planted get out of controll. I would say my hollies must of been 30 yrs old. My hubby and I spent the weekend digging up our 3 holly bushes. Sat~ dug around the bushes, rained that night. Sun~ tied a strong cord to back of took all day; plus bent the bumper...ugh. I still have overgrown bushes in flower bed, they will just have to play a part in my new flowerbed. Now I have to go home and pull the roots that were left behind. Was wondering if I use Root Killer can I wait a week and then start planting?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 3:38PM
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I have about 6, 30 year old holly bushes that line my house next to the pool. (What were they thinking!?!) I can't get a back hoe inbetween the house and pool...and it's too far to put a chain to my car. I was wondering, if I drill holes in the stumps of the bushes, and put root kill stuff in there..would that do the trick?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 3:35PM
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catbird(z7 AL)

Try cutting them down with a chain saw, then painting the stump with undiluted or very strong Roundup. If you can't get to the stumps with a tractor or truck to pull them up, maybe you can plant other things around them to hide them or even put flower pots on the stumps. We built an addition to our kitchen and the contractor had the tractor driver pull two up while he was digging the trench for the foundation.

We had several hollies in different locations around and too close to the house. They dropped berries on the terrace and in the gutters all year long, and the birds that ate the berries left on the tree dropped you-know-what on the terrace and furniture. We tried trimming them down for shrubs and trimming them up for trees, but finally gave up. I love hollies, but AWAY from the house!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 10:24AM
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Oh dear! I just planted a holly TREE (female) away from the house far enough that I can see it from the deck. I love the look of a nice holly TREE. In the French Quarter of New Orleans, that is the tree planted along the streets in those small planting pockets, they look great, they grow straight, they keep their leaves all year, and they are hard to kill....sounds good to me.

BUT, at the house we had on the river (destroyed by Katrina), there were holly shrubs with trunks about 5" diameter, kept the size of the large camellias also planted near the house. All of these survived the salty flood waters without a stutter. They are still on the vacant lot, and far be it from me to try to dig them up. :)

All your experiences remind me of the agony we are going through trying to rid ourselves of some darned CAMPHOR TREES. Those roots WILL come back. Each seed eaten by a bird will be pooped into the lawn somewhere, and I make sure I pull up seedlings before we cut the grass each week.

One camphor tree we had to use the car to extract the root. We used a chain attached to the trailer hitch. As a boat captain, I can tell you DO NOT GET IN THE PATH OF A LINE UNDER TENSION...especially if it is NYLON. Like a bullwhip, they can come back on you and remove an arm or eye or (as happened to a man offshore) a head. It is very dangerous to keep increasing tension on a line. So just apply SO MUCH, and stay off to one side neither in front of nor behind the direction of pull. A well sharpened pickax (adz if you are from the nawth) can eat through a lot of wood.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 11:27PM
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