The Q&A Archives: Inkberry Bush Turning Brown

Question: I planted an inkberry bush this past fall and seemed to survive the winter quite well. Since February I've noticed that many of the leaves have turned brown and have fallen off. Also, the twigs are turning black, and even healthy looking green leaves fall off. I've pruned the dead twigs and fertilized with Miracle-Gro and it hasn't seemed to help. What is wrong and what else can I do?

Answer: Based on your description, I suspect two things are possibly happening. First, hollies may show browning foliage problems in February or so due to drying out in the winter wind and sun. Newly planted Ilex glabra shrubs would be very susceptible to this because their root systems are less extenisve; this holly in particular prefers ample moisture -- it is native to swamps. Second, hollies also suffer a number of foliar problems that could cause the leaves to turn black. Twig dieback (Phytopthora), for example, would also cause the stems to turn black. You might wish to consult with your "county extension" (University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, 831-2504) for a more specific diagnosis and suggested controls. I'm sorry I can't be more specific.

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