The Q&A Archives: Dwarf Holly Care

Question: I purchased two dwarf hollies (Ilex helliri according to nursery owner)this past September and have maintianed them in large terra cotta containers outdoors. Approximately two weeks ago -- one of the plant's leaves began to dry and brown. The other appears to be doing well. I have examined the foliage and cannot detect any insect presence (scale, mites, etc.). A fungus doesn't appear to be the culprit either. Should I water and/or fertilize these plants now that it's December and temperatures here in DC are averaging 30 degrees F at night and approximately 40-50 during the day??? Any assistance that you could provide would be greatly appreciated -- I don't want to lose one of them so soon!!

Kathy Johnson

Answer: I have questions regarding whether the Dwarf Holly will survive in containers outdoors in your area. Containers are exposed on all sides to freezing wind and snow, and the plants within are subject to freeze/thaw cycles. It takes a very, very, very hardy shrub or plant to survive outdoors in a container. It sounds like one of the hollies is already showing signs of temperature stress, I do not believe there is a fungus, disease or other pest at work on your holly, I believe they are trying to tell you they aren't going to be able to survive the winter. You may want to consider planting the hollies in the ground before it freezes, or, if size is not a prohibitive factor, move the containers to a sheltered spot for the winter.

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