How to Grow Peters Fireworks Holly (Ilex verticillata)

Variety: Ilex verticillata
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Cultivar:  Peter's Fireworks
Zones: 3 to 9
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Soil Type: Some sand to loam
Soil pH: 5.5 to 6.5
Sunlight: Partial sun to full sun
Watering: Normal to moist
Fertilizer: Flowering shrub and tree fertilizer
Availability: Sold as live, potted plants.

When to plant: Plant the Peters Fireworks Holly at any time during the growing season when there is no danger of frost.

Planting method

CONTAINER: Dig a planting hole twice the size of the root ball and as deep as the soil in the container. Scarify the sides of the planting hole with a pitchfork or shovel. Center in the planting hole and backfill with soil. Mulch with at least three inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well. If you need to amend the soil, do not use more than half amended and half original soil.

BALLED AND BURLAPED: If the burlap is synthetic, remove the burlap and discard; otherwise leave the burlap on the root ball. Dig a planting hole as deep as the root ball three times its width. Scarify the sides of the planting hole with a pitchfork or shovel. Center in the planting hole. Remove any ties or staples holding the burlap to the plant and fold the top of the burlap down into the planting hole far enough so that when you backfill it gets covered. Backfill with soil. If you need to use amended soil, do not use more than half amended soil. Mulch with at least three inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

BARE ROOT: Soak the roots of the Peters Fireworks Holly for at least eight hours to ensure proper hydration. Dig a planting hole as wide as the spread-out roots and as deep as the discoloration on the stem, which shows how deep the holly was previously planted. Scarify the sides of the planting hole with a pitchfork or shovel. Center the plant in the planting hole and fill with water, then backfill with soil. Mulch with at least three inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

Watering: Water the Peters Fireworks Holly with at least an inch of water per week. The soil should be kept moist to a depth of 18 inches. Do not let the soil become soggy.

Fertilizing: During the first year of planting, use a phosphorus fertilizer. Once yearly, preferably in the spring before new growth, fertilize with an all-around flowering shrub and tree fertilizer. If the soil test shows a low nutrient, fertilize with a nutrient-specific fertilizer instead.

AHS Heat Zone: While the AHS Heat Zone has not been defined for this plant, care should be taken in choosing a planting spot. If you live in an area with long, hot summers, plant in partial sun. If you live in an area with shorter, cooler summers, plant in full sun.

Production: Peters Fireworks Holly is a low-maintenance evergreen shrub that produces dark-green and green leaves, reddish-orange berries and single, white flowers.


  • Blight: Blights are caused by various fungi and bacteria. Blights spread quickly and can kill all the plants in an area. There are many different types of blight, and each type has its own method of control. Help prevent blight from attacking this plant by keeping it disease and pest free.
  • Downy Mildew: Downy mildew is a fungal growth that appears to be fluffy. The white fungus grows on the underside of the leaves of plants and likes cool, humid weather. It can stunt and discolor the foliage. To control of this fungus, make sure plants have good air flow. Remove and discard infected plants. You an also use a fungicide.
  • Leaf Spots: Bacteria or fungi cause brown or black spots on leaves. The leaf spots have no particular shape, but the edges look yellow. People, rain and insects spread leaf spots. When the plant is dry, remove the infected leaves. Be sure to keep the plant pruned properly, and clean up any dropped leaves under the plant. Water plants from below, taking care to keep the foliage dry. Leaf spots can also be controlled with fungicide.
  • Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungus that usually affects plants that have low air circulation and inadequate light. It is a bigger problem in the early spring and fall months, when the temperatures swing from high during the day to low at night, especially in zones with a lot of humidity. Powdery mildew forms a white or gray coating on the top of the leaves, making them turn yellow, curl up and drop off. It also causes stunted fruit that drops early. To control powdery mildew, decrease watering, use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and keep water off the foliage. Apply fungicides as directed.
  • Pythium and Phytophtora Root Rot: Pythium and phytophtora root rot attack a plant if there are fungal spores in the soil and the plant is overwatered, creating a high moisture level. Roots turn black and break. Leaves yellow and fall off, usually from the bottom up. Contaminated water or soil mix is the usual cause of root rot. To control this disease, remove infected plants, make sure the soil is well-drained and do not overwater or overfertilize plants. There is no chemical treatment for root rot.
  • Rhizactonia Root and Stem Rot: Rhizoctonia is found in a lot of soils. It enters the plant through the roots and causes it to wilt as it travels up the stems. The lower leaves will wilt first. If you think your plant has this problem, decrease watering. If all of the leaves are wilted, discard the plant and clean the pot with a bleach-and-water mixture. Fungicides will also control Rhizactonia.
  • Sooty Mold: Sooty mold is a black, sticky fungus that feeds on honeydew put out by aphids, mealybugs and scale insects. It attracts ants. You can get rid of it by keeping the pests out of your plants and by washing away with a sprayer. Though it is a fungus, fungicides may not control it. Be sure to keep the plant properly pruned to help with sooty mold.
  • Southern Blight: Southern blight is a fungus that leaves lesions on the stem of a plant. The lesions can usually be found near the soil line. The lesions cause the plant to suddenly wilt. This fungus likes temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be controlled with a fungicide.


  • Leaf Miners: Leaf miners are the larvae of different bugs, including moths, flies and beetles. A leaf miner creates a tunnel between the upper and lower surface of a leaf. They are attracted to vegetables and ornamental plants. To control leaf miners, keep the area well weeded, introduce parasitic wasps and remove and discard infected leaves. Some insecticides may kill leaf miners.
  • Mealybugs: Mealybugs are covered with a white wax and feed on plants by inserting stylets into the plant. They secrete honeydew, which creates sooty mold and attracts ants. Eggs are laid inside a cotton-type pouch and hatch in 7 to 10 days. The adults live about 30 days, and can lay several hundred eggs. Control mealybugs with an insecticidal soap or pesticides.
  • Scale Insects: The 1/8-inch-long scale insect attaches itself to the leaves and stems of plants. While the males have wings, the females do not, and spend their lives attached to the plant, sucking out juices with their piercing mouth parts. The scale insect excretes honeydew, which causes sooty mold that attracts ants. Cut any infected leaves off the plants. If the stems are also infected, you may have to dispose of the entire plant. You may be able to control them with insecticidal soaps or pesticides. You can also introduce parasitic wasps to your garden, as they are the scale insect's natural enemies. Lady beetles are also natural enemies.

Cleanup: Prune Peters Fireworks Holly during the spring and throughout the growing season for dead and decaying wood and plant matter. Pinch the stem tips during the growing season to encourage foliage growth.

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