Holly leaves turning brown and dying

sarapa(6)July 9, 2010

My house had two holly bushes (male and female) when I moved in 3 years ago. Both were healthy and bushy and seemed well established. They both looked great this spring, I even commented how green and shiny the female's leaves were. I fertilized with HollyTone in the spring.

We have had a weird spring--hot, then rainy, rainy and cool and now really hot. I have tried treated them with an anti-fungal I use for more rose bushes with no change.

Now the leaves are turning brown (usually on the edges) and then move into the center, until the leaves turn brown/black and drop off. The female is worse than the male. When I scrape the skin, the underneath looks green and healthy.

What do I do???

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They are probably adjusting to the weird weather and require NO FURTHER TREATMENT. You can trim out branches whose leaves have all turned brown. It is also important to mulch them. This moderates soil temps and keeps splashback off the leaves. I have inkberry hollies that always get a few yellow leaves when we get too much rain. I use Hollytone in spring and pick off any yellow/black leaves. If yours have a more drastic case, they probably have a disease. Bring an affected branch to a good local nursery or the local cooperative extension office for diagnosis.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 1:48PM
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Well, the female died. ALL the leaves dropped off. I did try spraying with a anti-fungal to no avail. I dug it up over the weekend and the roots seem okay--not signs of root rot. I cleaned up all the dead leaves etc.
Now the male is showing signs of the leaves turning black on the edges. It *is* close to the house and I did have some point-tucking done on my stairs last fall. Oddly, the female is *further* away from the stairs than the male. I don't remember seeing any mortar near the holly, but could it have leached into the soil? Is this what happens to holly bushes if the soil isn't acidic enough?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 6:38PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

If you try to break off a twig does it snap off dry and brittle or is it still bendy? If the latter it is worth leaving the trees until next spring before digging them up. They may still be alive. And what kind of hollies are they? I only know Ilex aquifolium and that does not need acid conditions.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 10:34AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

IMHO ... and reinforced by the first reply ....


stop feeding them..

stop spraying them ....

and just insure they have proper water

i really wonder.. if you arent killing them with too much love ....

was the anti-fungal for roses...LABELED FOR EVERGREEN HOLLY???? if not.. then everything that happened.. after the spray.. MAY HAVE BEEN YOUR FAULT ....

i, also .. going into late fall ... leave stuff until late next spring.. to make the decision as to whether it will live.. early dormancy is an option for heavily stressed plants ...

good luck


    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 12:39PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions.

The female holly was dead, dead, dead. No dormancy. Everything very brittle (ie branch would snap in half) and no signs up life when I dug it up.
I actually have never paid much attention to the holly, as it was always very self-sufficient. A little Holly Tone in the Spring, as advised from our local expert gardener we hired when we first moved in.
The anti-fungal was used well after the dying was happening. It was organic and on the advice of my local nursery, which has an arborist on staff. I didn't bring a twig, though, so he was only guessing.
I guess I'll bring a twig into him to take a look at. Would just hate to lose my male holly.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 11:08PM
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I have a holly that is turning brown on several leaves and it also has tiny white spots on some of the green leaves. It is a Christmas Jewel Holly, Ilex Pyreni (I think)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:43PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey judy ....

hard to tell you much in words alone ... other than to tell you.. its probably the result of a bad winter ... but you dont tell us where you are ... so even that is a guess ...

start your own post... and give us a pic or two.. if you want some specificity ... check the box under where you type;.. so replies come to you ...


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 7:59AM
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i am in zone 5b/6, this bush was here when we moved in 16 yrs ago, @ 3 years ago we added more of a holly tree,it looks fine so far. i hate to admit it, but we really havent treated for anythig for years. can we save the older bush,every leaf is fine.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 1:28PM
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I am also having a problem with my Holly's leaves turning brown in different areas of the bush. I live in Southeast Michigan and this bush has thrived over the years.

See the attached photos.

Any suggestions...I've never had to do anything to any of my Hollys except trim them now and again.

Thank You,

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Here is a 2nd photo closer up...


    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 6:44PM
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seagreen_turtle(Z5 MI)

I have a male and female holly that look rough, rough, rough from the winter but have lots of new growth at the end of each branch. They don't look like they're at risk at all but they're the weirdest looking things - completely denuded of leaves except at the end of each branch. Oh well, I'll let nature take it's course. I'm not going to prune them - all the new growth is at the ends. She gets berries every year but they may be too near a 50 year old maple so that's not great either...

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 8:47PM
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