The Q&A Archives: Variegated English Holly

Question: I am in zone 6. I have a 4 foot tall Variegated English Holly that I purchaed this past fall. It is planted in the front of my house with a southern exposure near the foundation in full sun. I have noticed that alot of the lower leaves are brown and that most of the leaves toward the top are brown on the edges. Is this plant dying or is this typical of an English holly in the winter? If this is not typical, is there something I can do? Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer: Based on your description it sounds like the plant is drying out or becoming somewhat dessicated. This can happen to broad leafed evergreens during the winter due to wind exposure, reflected heat from a building, or reflected sun off of snow. It is more likely to happen to fall planted evergreens because they have not yet established their root system and are more at risk of going into winter insufficiently hydrated and of losing moisture through their leaves faster than they can replace it through their limited roots.

Some things you can do is erect a wind barrier if it is in a windy location, apply an antitranspirant according to the label instructions (most large garden centers should have it), and make sure the soil is kept moist (not sopping wet) any time it is not frozen, meaning spring through late fall. Several inches of mulch applied over the root zone but not touching the trunk can also help.

In some cases variegated plants seem to be less vigorous than their green leafed counterparts. You may want to keep an eye on this one and take especially good care of it this coming summer, especially if we have a very hot or dry season. In the meantime you may also want to contact the supplier and see if they have any recommendations, especially if the plant is under warranty.

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