The Q&A Archives: Dead Branches on Japanese Holly (Sky Pencil)

Question: I planted it a year ago and it was fine all summer and fall and most of the winter. Then leafs turned brown and several dead branches appeared and contines. I would like to know the possible cause(s) and what I can possibly to do.

Answer: There are several possible causes including drying out due to excessive wind or cold temperatures during the winter (New plants are particularly prone to this because their root systems are not yet fully established.) and/or damage caused by the oscillating spring temperatures we tend to have. It might also be due to some type of infection. This is very hard to diagnose long distance so I would suggest you consult with a professionally certified nurseryman and/or your county extension to get a definite diagnosis. If the branch tips are dead they can be trimmed off and the new growth will soon replace the damaged portions, bare branches can also releaf if they are still alive. Dead wood is dull brown or gray and brittle, it snaps off in your fingers. Live wood has green inside the bark and is somewhat supple. I would suggest getting a more specific diagnosis prior to trimming because some disease problems can be spread on tools. Also, based on the diagnosis you will have a better idea of how to proceed. Good luck with your holly!

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