The Q&A Archives: Japanese Holly

Question: Last summer I planted six dwarf Japanese Hollies. They seemed to be doing well until two weeks ago (temperatures hit 100F). Now four of the plants have turned brown and seem to be dead. Additionally, I've noticed some dead branches on a larger Japanese Holly. The plants were watered but they do face south. I don't see any insects (but I don't know exactly what to look for). Can you help me?

Answer: Watering is very important for newly planted shrubs, especially in times of heat and drought when they are the most stressed. It is also possible that these plants never rooted all that well into the surrounding soil so that the stress level was increased. Not only can the establishment process take two years, but a hot situation such as a southern exposure can also contribute to the problem. The best way to water is to apply it as a deep soaking about once a week or even every five days when it is hot being sure to cover the entire root zone which may extend past the dripline of the shrub. The rule of thumb is an inch a week. You may need to dig down to see if you watering actually penetrated any distance at all, especially now that the weather has been so difficult. Next, maintain a mulch layer several inches thick to help keep the soil cooler and moister. These particular plants prefer a soil that is evenly moist and yet well drained and do not do well in areas with very hot summers (as in say the Southeast), so they may not tolerate severe hot dry periods very well, especially when they are newly planted. Extreme weather may also affect established plants, as you seem to be seeing.

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