How to Remove Japanese Holly

These recommendations are primarily for homeowners and communities that would like to start working in their neighborhood greenspace. For each species we recommend herbicide-free control methods, but have added an herbicide option for some species for those who are comfortable using them. These methods were selected while keeping in mind limiting soil disturbance, reducing herbicide use, and avoiding harm to other species that may be present whether they be other plants/animals. Manual removal is possible for all of them if you have the time. If the infestation is overwhelmingly severe or these tips aren’t proving effective, we suggest you consider qualified professional services.


Japanese Holly

Ilex crenata – Georgia EPPC Category 4 (naturalized in Georgia or in need of further information)


Mature Japanese holly and detail of leaves.



For certain woody invasive plants that have shallow roots, uprooting is an easy method of control. Some woody invasive trees and shrubs have deeper tap roots that make hand pulling difficult. If the trunk has a diameter of less than 1” hand pulling could be a viable option. Japanese holly can have a robust root system and may need to be loosened with a shovel.


Using a shovel to loosen a seedling before hand pulling it.


Shake off all the dirt from the roots after uprooting to prevent regrowth.


Once Japanese holly reaches a medium size beyond 1” diameter, it develops a robust root system that is difficult to uproot. At this size and beyond we recommend using the cut and treat or cut and leave methods.


Cut and Leave & Cut and Treat

If the tree or shrub cannot be uprooted, the best removal method is cut-and-treat. We suggest using a high concentrate (between 20-50%), glyphosate-based solution and add in an indicator dye to keep track of what has been treated.

Use a hand saw to cut down the tree or shrub. Get the stump as close to the ground as possible, ideally less than 1” off the ground. If the tree or shrub has a larger diameter, getting closer to the ground will be more difficult and not as necessary as for a smaller diameter tree.

If you prefer not to use an herbicide (cut-and-leave), know that the stump will regrow. Make your initial cut around 1’ to waist height off of the ground to allow recutting in subsequent years. When the plant regrows, take pruners or a hand saw and remove all new growth as soon as you see it. This will eventually starve the roots, killing the plant.


Cut off branches to make access to the stump easier.


For the cut and leave method, leave some length on the stump.


The stump should be treated with the herbicide within 5 minutes after the cut. We use 1-liter hand sprayers to apply the herbicide, but it can also be “painted on” using a brush to apply the solution to the cut. Be sure not to get the herbicide anywhere but on the stump you are treating. If the stump is not treated, or is not cut low enough, it will regrow.


Apply herbicide directly to stem within 5-10 minutes of cutting



“Category” refers to description of invasiveness based on information from the Georgia and North Carolina Exotic Pest Plant Council (EPPC) and do not necessarily reflect the severity of invasions in Atlanta specifically. View our Resource “Atlanta’s Top Invasive Plants (A to Z) Expanded List” for more information.

A great opportunity to learn is volunteering with us at a Forest Restoration project. Please view our Calendar of upcoming service projects or consider enrolling in our annual Forest Stewardship training program. For other species removal, also read: How to Remove Our Top 10 Invasive Plants.

If you have any questions about this guide please email