I Killed a Holly

Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)September 26, 2005

I managed to kill off a Foster's Holly and before I rush out to get a replacement I would like to learn what I did wrong. I could take a current picture, but it is basically some dead stick with some brown leaves. The holly was purchased last fall from a reputable nursery and planted in the ground. I believe that this was during the first week of November 2004.

It looked good over the winter and put out a bit of new growth in the spring. At this point I noticed some brown leaves near the bottom of the tree, but most of the holly was green and the new growth looked great. It was a reasonably hot and dry summer, but I think I kept the area watered enough. I would drag out the hose when the nearby (also planted fall of 2004) oakleaf hydrangea or rhododendron started to droop. Late summer has been very dry and I have been watering on a regular basis. The other plants in this bed seem to be doing pretty good, but the holly is dead.

Yea, I know it is probably a bit hard to diagnose the problem with this limited knowledge. What moisture level do Hollies prefer? This spot is fairly dense deciduous shade, but I thought it would be okay for a Foster's Holly. The soil is in pretty good shape. I applied a 3" or so layer of shredded wood mulch. There are a lot of nearby trees that I imagine are fighting for moisture.

The link below is a picture to the bed that was taken this spring. The Holly is in the back corner. I appreciate any ideas that you can give me. Should I plant another Holly in this location?



Here is a link that might be useful:

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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)


It's not a very big Foster holly; was it in a container or B&B? Pop it out and use water pressure to blast all the soil off the roots and see what you originally bought. Take pictures at each step along the way, so that you've got a record for future reference (or for posting here so that others may learn).

You may find out that you did nothing wrong; your patient may have had a terminal problem to start with.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 5:10PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I never wait until my newly planted shrubs (under two years) start to show signs of stress and droop to water them. If it hasn't rained, I water, even if they look fine.

I'm also curious what a post-mortem will turn up.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 9:25PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

Most hollies need either "average" water or more than average. A Foster Holly should just need average water, but that still means you shouldn't let it dry out in its first year. In that spot you would probably need to water deeply every week. Once established for a few years I think it will be fine in that spot, it will grow into a tree itself if you let it.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 7:03AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

FYI...Last weekend I dug up the dead Fosters Holly and planted another in the same location. I snapped a few pictures, but the pictures were corrupted (I guess my digital camera does not like it when you pull the memory card while the camera is turned on). In general the roots of the dead tree looked decent. The container shape was still evident, but there were roots that extended out from the original root ball and the soil on the root ball was loose.

If there was one planting error, it seems that I did not dig a very wide planting hole. I think I tried to keep the hole size small to minimize disturbance to the roots of the surrounding trees. When I planted the replacement I made sure to loosen up a 3' wide planting hole. I top dressed with some compost and mulch. I will be sure to keep this one watered on a regular basis.

- Brent

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 12:48PM
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I don't know about your zone, but around here I worry about my hollies surviving the winter and getting enough moisture. I bought 3 large B&B's (Blue Princess) this spring for a very similar spot as yours -- maybe worse as far as big tree root competition. I am crossing my fingers that they can make the winter and the dryness. I would never attempt planting them in the fall here. My only hope is that I got them in early enough in the season (and am keeping them very well watered and mulched) that their roots will deal.

Make sure yours gets plenty of water going into the winter. Even though yours seemed to make it through last winter, it still may have been stressed enough throughout the season as a result of winter dryness.

I had another holly, Dragon Lady, that suffered after last winter a lot. I kept trimming back winter kill and a few weeks later there was more.. over and over all season long. It was very strange. It finally settled down, but it is half the size it was last year.

I plan to give the Blue Princesses plenty of water up until the ground freezes and plenty of mulch after that.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 7:28PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

So...not only did you kill your holly but you corrupted the photo evidence? The Ilex CSI will track you down! Better not have left any DNA evidence about....

Good for you on digging the ample planting hole. Only further advice I'd offer is to make the moisture additions easier on yourself. Invest in a length of drip hose (the stuff made of recycled rubber, round, that looks like it's sweating when you've got the water turned on) to lay under the mulch in your planting bed. Much more efficient way to water, and you can be doing other things like sipping adult beverages or planting more specimens. Your hosta in the pic would enjoy it as well.

Good luck with the new holly.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 1:36PM
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I too live in NoVA and may have killed my ornamental holly. I added Holly Tone in June or early July, which may have been the wrong time of year to do it. But I thought it was safe because it was organic. Or it could have been lack of water, because I was recently gone for 10 days when there no rain. I had watered fairly regularly before I left but it may have only gotten watered once during my absence. Now the bottom half has brown, drooping, then dropping leaves. Will it come back and will it fill in again? What can I do to save it, or is it too late?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 8:57PM
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