The Q&A Archives: holly has turned black

Question: I have two holly bushes that have been planted in the same space for at least 8 years. I pay practically no attention to then and until this spring they have grown quite well..this year I have noticed that both the leaves and the branches of most of one and part of the other have turned black, almost as if they have been covered in soot. Both are male as they do not produce any berries. They are also both losing thier leaves. Any thoughts?

Answer: Since the hollies have grown well for you until now, I suspect it is related to the oscillating temperatures we have had this spring. At this point you can trim off any winterkilled stems and then wait for them to releaf as the season progresses. Begin at the tips and work your way to live wood. Live wood will have green inside the bark, be supple and flexible. Dead wood will be brittle and snap in your hand, the bark will be off-color brown or gray. After you remove the winter damaged wood, you can prune a bit more if needed to restore a somewhat symmetrical look. You may also pick off dead foliage. Watch for new growth shooting from lower on the trunk and branches and for new foliage as well.

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