The Q&A Archives: Sick Holly Bush

Question: I have two holly shrubs I put in last year, now they are losing all their leaves. They aren't turning colors, just falling off & leaving bare stems? What can I do?

Answer: It doesn't appear your hollies are very happy! Usually, when the leaves fall off in great quantities, it indicates a problem with the roots. Maybe too much or too little water? Perhaps poorly draining soil kept the roots too wet over the winter? Before you completely give up on the shrubs, try the "scrape" test. Gently remove the outer bark of one of the stems with your fingernail. If you find green tissue, it indicates the stem is alive. If the tissue is brown, it's dead. Keep scraping along several stems until you find live wood. If you do find live material, prune off all the dead wood. This will encourage your plants to develop healthy new wood. If you test in several areas, from the tips of the stems all the way back to the trunk, and cannot find live wood, I'm afraid your plants are dead.

Hope you find some positive signs in your hollies!

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