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Holly Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Holly Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The Holly flower is a staple for decorating during Christmas and Yuletide. Whether you want this plant for its classic beauty or its rich, historic plant symbolism, your winter won’t be the same without a Holly tree somewhere nearby.

What is Holly? 

Holly is an ornamental evergreen shrubby tree that can grow up to 15-feet tall. This plant belongs to the Ilex genus, consisting of over 400 evergreen and deciduous species. Many people around the world consider Holly a symbol of the Christmas season.

One notable feature is the thick dark green leathery leaves with serrated edges. The second thing is the bright, glossy crimson berries. 

A Brief History of Holly 

In Christianity, Holly plants have been an important symbol for thousands of years. But they go even further back to Celtics, Druid symbols, and Pagan rituals.

In Celtic mythology, Holly is symbolic of goodwill and peace. And the plant’s lightning resistance created an association with Norse and Celtic thunder gods – Thor (Norse) and Taranis (Celtic). Planting holly around the house prevented lightning strikes. 

Ancient Druids also believed bringing Holly leaves inside during winter gave shelter to fairies. 

Characteristics, Fragrance, and Traits of Holly

Holly flowers come in different colors. The leaves are thick, glossy, and green with serrated edges with sharp points. Some variations may have white variegated with the green leaves and different serrations.

It also produces small, plump berries – red, yellow, white, black, or pink. Despite the beauty, the berries are not safe to eat for people or pets. But they’re a major food source for birds.

Holly also has a delightfully sweet aroma with a slight spice to keep it from suffocating.

Different Colors of Holly and Their Meaning

The most common holly color is the red of the berries, which can also mean a courageous outlook and attitude for life. Or it could stand for alertness and caution for challenges that lay ahead. But Holly can also have flower colors with significant meanings. 


White flowers are the purest and most beautiful. The red berries make a bold contrast, representing holiness and good fortune.


Hollies with pink flowers are symbolic of beauty and enchantment.


Hollies with yellow flowers mean persistence in love and life and a beacon of happiness.


Green is the least common type of flower color and represents a wish for the gifts of foresight and protection.

What Does the Holly Symbolize?

Holly is symbolic of Christmas and happiness at home. In addition, ancient druids symbolized Holly with fertility and improved the chances of conceiving a child.

And bathing a baby in water made with the leaves protected from evil spirits and harm.

But the prickly leaves give more meanings, like defense and protection. For example, Holly plants are a way to defend against witchcraft and thunder.

Pagan and Agrarian rituals symbolize Holly as a winter king due to being cold-tolerant. Christians may consider the winter king to be Jesus, although this meaning came about thousands of years later. 

Ancient Romans used Holly to symbolize bounty and goodwill, using twigs and branches as gifts and tokens of gratitude to family and friends. Holly was also an offering made to god Saturn at the Saturnalia festival.

Can You Send Holly as a Gift? 

Holly can be an excellent gift to send around Christmas time. It can be a thoughtful gift for a Christian or a Christmas present. 

Or you can send this December flower to someone celebrating a birthday. 

How Can You Decorate with Holly?

The ways to decorate with Holly are limitless. Common ideas include using Christmas holly plants as door wreaths, centerpieces, tree ornaments, floral arrangements, or holly pictures on decor.

Growing and Caring for Holly Blossoms

Your Holly needs a bright place to grow with enough room. The best time to plant is in spring.

Make a hole two to three times wider than the size of the root ball and half that deep. Add some compost – wood chips or bark can increase neutral or alkaline soils acidity. 

Then loosen the roots or cut the ball if potbound. Next, put your plant into the hole so that there’s only a slight bit of the root ball sticking above the surface. 

Fill the void, tamp it, give it a heavy watering, and then add a layer of mulch to lock in moisture and prevent weeds. But keep the mulch off the top of the root ball. 

Ggive your plant thorough waterings once to twice a week in hot, dry spells during summer. In addition, an acid-loving slow-release fertilizer designed for shrubs can give your plant an extra growth boost. Fertilize in spring and fall. 

Holly as an Herbal Medicine 

Holly has multiple uses as an herbal medication for various conditions. For example, people used flowers and other plant parts to treat fevers in the 19th century. And holly infusions were used as a cure for pleurisy.

And the poisonous berries make Holly an emetic. It’s still used today as a diaphoretic. Boiling the leaves can create treat jaundice. 

Tips for Buying Holly

Before buying a holly plant, give the entire thing a good examination. First, check the leaves and the fruit (if the tree is female). 

Avoid bushes that show signs of pest infestations or illnesses. Splotches and discolorations on the leaves, wilting, and minimal berries may indicate that the plant isn’t healthy. 

The Holy Tree Story: 

The Holy Bible says a King ordered all boy babies to be put to death. Mary hid Jesus in a holly bush to keep him protected. 

Only, at the time, the bush wasn’t in bloom and did not provide much cover. So Mary prayed for her son’s safety, causing the holly leaves to grow out and hide the baby.


Want to know more about Holly? Check out these frequently asked questions!

Fun Facts About the Holly

  • In numerology, Holly is a number 7, correlating with planet Neptune. That gives holly qualities of a stronger understanding, mediation, analysis, and awareness.
  • People used these plants for centuries before Christianity to celebrate the pagan winter solstice.
  • Romans used these plants in their Saturnalia festival rituals, held around the same time as Christmas and the winter solstice.
  • The holly leaf spines work like lightning conductors to direct lightning away from nearby trees. 
  • Holly is a popular December girl’s name.

What Does Holly Symbolize at Christmas?

At Christmas, Holly can mean Christmas Joy. It’s a common symbol used on Christmas decor, from springs on the tree to pictures printed on Christmas cards, decor, and wreaths.

What Do the Red Holly Berries Symbolize?

Because Holly berries are a bold, captivating shade of red, they represent the blood of Christ in Christianity. The red is symbolic of the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity and his wounds from being crucified on the cross. 

The number of berries on a plant is also symbolic. When there’s a prolific amount of berries, it’s believed to be a sign of a harsh incoming winter. As a result, the plants produce more berries to ensure enough food for birds.

What is a Holly Flower?

Although most people appreciate Holly for its green leaves and red berries, the flower is nothing to dismiss. These dainty blooms are what provide defense and protection in most legends. 

Is Holly the Flower of December?

Holly is one of two December birth flowers. The other species is the narcissus, which is nothing like the robust, winter-loving Holly. 

What is the Magical Significance of Holly?

In days past, planting holly around your home offered protection against thunder and lighting. It also served to protect the occupants from witchcraft and the evil eye.

And people in England once believed that it was necessary to surround a young female’s bed with holly sprigs during Christmas time. The prickly leaves and poisonous red berries prevented goblins. 

Celtics believe Holly symbolizes good luck and protection. And their chieftains wore Holly wreaths as crowns to bring good fortune and guidance while ruling.

A Celtic story says that Holly controls the dark, cold winter months. And the Oak – the evergreen twin – handles the seasons of light and warmth. 

What Does Holly Symbolize in Christianity?

The shape of Holly flowers is symbolic for Christianity, as the petals bloom out symmetrically to form small white crosses. A cross is the Christain trinity symbol.

A Holly plant’s pointy leaves symbolize Jesus’ crown of thorns – made by a holly branch. The leaf color means eternal life. And the red of the berries is Jesus’ blood. 

What Deity is Associated with Holly?

Holly is linked to multiple deities, depending on culture and religion. Holly is synonymous with Taranis and Thor in European mythology – the thunder gods. In Christianity, it’s symbolic for Jesus. Romans linked the flower to Saturn.

Is It Unlucky to Bring Holly Into the House?

It’s bad luck to cut down a holly bush. But it’s good luck to bring pieces of a holly bush into the home. However, it is bad luck to bring Holly indoors before Christmas Even.


Holly is a flower with mega cultural and religious symbolism and the looks to back it up. Today, it’s most symbolic for Christmas and Christianity. But it has multiple meanings that you now know.