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Beginner Gardening: brown Holly

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Forum: Beginner GardeningReplies: 5, Views: 27
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Athol, MA

August 4, 2012
5:04 AM

Post #9229049

I've had 2 Holly bushes (one male, one female) for about 10 years. They are approx 40ft. apart. We have had an extremely dry summer. One day I looked out and the female was almost totally brown. The male appeared to be fine. Upon closer observation, I could see that there were still some green leaves on it so I started watering but the remaining green leaves turned brown in a few days. Will this bush make a comeback or should I start looking for another female bush? Any help is appreciated.


Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

August 4, 2012
6:26 AM

Post #9229114

There are a few things that would do that...the first is lack of water...are there large trees near the holly? They tend to suck up all the available moisture. Another cause would be fertilizer burn...heat can cause rapid breakdown in fertilizer so it all becomes available at once.

Also, root rot/fungus will do that to hollies. I did find this info in reference to "holly leaves turning brown"

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research

There is a great probability that your holly is suffering from a disease called holly leaf blight (Phytophthora ilicis). This disease causes leaf and twig blight ("blights" are characterized by the rapid dying back of tissues). Symptoms of this disease can be slight, but the disease often becomes more severe in rainy and cool weather. The disease can be controlled (to some extent) by the use of cultural techniques.

Infections are caused by a microorganism that prefers moist conditions. Improving air circulation will discourage the proliferation of spores and reduce disease pressure. Infected leaves and branches will die, but are also the source of spores for new infections, so rake up and remove fallen leaves. Prune dead branches only in dry weather (open wounds are potential infection sites) and compost these well away from holly trees, or remove the material entirely. Bare soil beneath the tree may be a contributor to disease, as the organism is effectively rain-splashed from minute plant parts into the lower branches. Turf or ground-covering plants can help reduce rain-splash.

Fixed copper sprays may be an effective prophylactic when used in the autumn.

Holly also suffers from other diseases, such as holly scab and holly canker but these problems are rare. Scale insects are common on hollies locally, and will cause defoliation, but sooty mould, which grows on the sugary deposits made by the scales, is very distinctive and would not be confused with other problems. Boron deficiency causes spotting on leaves and defoliation, but these symptoms appear on the younger foliage, and this is a rare problem in gardens.
Douglas Justice
Associate Director
Curator of Collections
Athol, MA

August 4, 2012
2:20 PM

Post #9229554

There are no large, or small, trees near the Holly. Also, there hasn't been any fertilizer used on or near it.
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

August 4, 2012
4:38 PM

Post #9229697

I would think water shortage, so dig a small hole close to root area (about a foot away from the trunk) IF the soil is bone dry, then I would make More holes around the root area, get clear plastic juice containers and cut the bottom off, place the containers (upside down) into the holes and replace the soil to preven the containers falling over, then fill up the containers a few times every few days and this will allow the water to reach down to the roots under the soil, you can also add liquide feed to shrubs / trees this way, after 10 year old plantings, my oppinion would go to droubt as this year has been very dry and shortage or rain. after a few years of proper water at the roots, the holly should have recovered BUT, it wont happen over night, the leaves would not have gone brown over night either so the plants require time to recover.
Hope this helps.
IF the soil is not dry at the roots by the way, I would remove a small branch and visit your gov office to ask for advice as holly is normally as tough as old boots.
Good luck. WeeNel.


Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

August 5, 2012
4:35 PM

Post #9230740

Texas drought started the trees dying- the ones that weren't burned in the horrid fires last year, we are expected to lose 8 out of every 10 trees, not all trees died fast- the damages are still ongoing- the continuing problems being damaged and weakened trees attacked by ants/bugs- ESP as we had no winter andthat critter population is unchecked and probably trebled! branches that died and haven't fallen yet will fall in winds and water, and damage more trees as they do, and that is just Texas alone. People are still chunking cigarettes out on the highway- new burned areas are hard to miss, even tho more states than Tx now make that a felony offense if seen and reported to the 800 phone numbers, I still hear the lame excuse the butts go out in 3 seconds, shake head, wrong! Not all cigarettes are steeped in the same amounts of chemicals to accomplish that.
Good luck with your holly, hope it pulls thru- or at least doesn't take it's partner with it


Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

August 6, 2012
6:44 AM

Post #9231344

It could be nematodes also

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