Ilex aquifolium variegata

Kelly8600January 22, 2014

We planted 3 along the west side of a fence on east side of our backyard. They were 5' tall at the time of planting in fall 2009. I know they are slow growing but we planted them for privacy reasons and accepted the fact that they'd grow maybe 1-2" per year. They get enough water...approx 6-8 hrs of has been measured at 6.3...and we fertilize with holly tone and mulch in fall. Leafing is not particularly dense but not sparse either. Some but very few berries on each one. They appear to be healthy - just smaller bushes.
My question is this: I know they are slow growers but they haven't put on even one inch of growth since we planted them. (I measured at time of planting) They are the same exact height. What do you think is going on?

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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

They can grow slowly, especially at first.

Is there any root competition from large trees in the vicinity?

Mine have done well. They do take a few years to get established and after 3 or 4 years will start to grow a bit more steadily. I am pruning mine a bit each year to make them more dense.

How are they taking this cold weather? Perhaps the surface roots freeze and that sets the plants back a bit. Just a guess.

For more berries consider planting a male aquifolium like 'Gold Coast' nearby.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 7:47PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

on a 5 foot tall transplant.. explain how they get enough water????

are you soaking down into the entire root mass that was planted.... or are you relying on lawn sprinklers??


    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 9:20AM
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Thx for your replies.
@dave - there are a couple green giants in between that are doing very well.They were planted at the same time approx 7 or 8 ft away from Ilex. As for the cold, the Ilex dropped their leaves the first winter completely and then leafed back out and have held ever since. They appear fine right now but I guess I'll know more in the spring about how they did with this cold spell. (My Edith Bogue is actually hanging in there!) And I haven't pruned them at all except for some dead branches here and there.
@ken - no ,no - i wouldn't rely on lawn sprinklers..they're for the LAWN. ;-) I soaked religiously with the hose first fall when it was planted...and then again the following spring, summer & fall. I cont'd to water according to how much rainfall we would get weekly after that. If there's a culture problem I assure you it is not of watering.

I wonder (and fear) that it might be too cold here in my NJ zone for Ilex aquifolium and maybe needs to be moved to a more sheltered spot...possibly closer to the house?? :-(

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:43AM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Lots of guesses can be thrown at your question. You could provide some images of the current conditions - that often helps participants provide better ideas. Telling us your approximate geographical location is helpful too. NJ is a great place to know and grow hollies, but some places (coastal acid sandy loams with above average moisture) are better than others (Watchung Mountains, droughty south-facing slopes over rock).

Very slow rate of growth after 4 or 5 growing seasons tells me something else is going on, not easily seen. Tell us what condition these 5' plants were in when you purchased them. Were they balled and burlapped, or in containers?

It is quite possible that you started with a compromised root system, and that might easily explain why you are observing poor restricted growth. It is an unfortunate situation all too often repeated, and unsuspecting gardeners are the victim.

You also mentioned pH 6.3 - presumably your soils where these Ilex are planted. That is fine, but have you ever measured the pH of your irrigation water? Many times this turns out to be quite high (above 7.0) which is not helpful for acid-loving plants but not usually fatal.

English Holly do not prefer lots of dessicating wind in winter (or any other time). That is stressful. Snow cover helps by insulating roots during extreme low temps, and conserving moisture available to roots. These broadleaf evergreen plants benefit from a windbreak of some sort, whether it's a fence, structure, or bigger plants.

Continue to provide images and information, though onset of spring is going to help some of your questions about winter injury.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 11:23AM
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Wish I could provide pics but camera is broken at the moment. Will try to get some from my phone.
I checked a bunch of sources and the best I can come up with in terms of a geological location for our area is "the piedmont"...which is directly west of the coastal plains of No.NJ. (our area is a sedimentary basin characterized by quartzite and sandstone) The ilex are planted on west side of a fence so I'm not sure what that might mean in terms of wind and dessication. They are also bordered on north and south by larger arborvitae approx 7-8ft away. (Sprayed Ilex with Wilt Pruf this past fall as well - don't know how much that matters - and mulched the roots a couple inches). Never had our water tested but I will do that....good idea. Any idea who I would go to for that? I can tell you that we use a water softener for the house. Thx viburnumvalley!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 11:15AM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

I meant geographical - like which town or county! Geology is nice to know, too - Piedmont says a lot.

Borrow a friend's camera, or make them take photos for you. Phone camera works, though resolution can be lousy.

West exposure often means brisk winds and winter sun, unless the arborvitae are shading them.

Wilt Pruf is useful as a temporary measure, but usually doesn't provide winter long protection. Mulch is usually always good to retain moisture, suppress weeds, add organic matter as it decomposes, and provide some insulation against fluctuation of temperatures.

Check with your county's Cooperative Extension Service about companies in your area that test water. Sometimes that is offered through the CES, but mostly it is a test performed by private firms. A local nursery or garden center might also be able to answer that question, since it is an important consideration in plant growing businesses.

Water softeners can create some really interesting situations regarding the quality of water coming out of your tap. It might be informative reading for you look into what chemical changes occur in this process, and what it might mean to your gardens and plants.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 11:01PM
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Are they showing any burning leaves? If they are just not growing, that is not a cold issue but something else (compacted soils, root competition, etc.).

I have a bunch of hollies (Nellie Stevens, Blue Prince/Princess). Hollies are relative shallow rooted, only problem I had with one or two is root competition with a nearby Maple--which tends to be shallow rooted itself.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:30AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Note that there is no holly called I. aquifolium 'Variegata' - your plants are liable to actually have another cultivar name.

If instead somebody has come out with a new selection that they are calling 'Variegata', they shouldn't have used that name.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 4:00AM
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That's English Holly, and English Holly is kind of borderline in Zone 6. My parents have one that was planted when I was has since gotten huge, but only produces a handful of berries and suffers from wind burn. On the other hands, we're a bit north of you, so if anything the conditions here are harsher.

If it didn't actually die, it should be bigger. I planted another small variegated English Holly a couple years ago and it is noticeably bigger.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:28AM
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