The Q&A Archives: yellowing of holly tree leaves

Question: Last year our 8 ft holly tree which had been professionally planted the previous year, started turning a yellow green color and lost many leaves. This spring it still looks pretty much the same and no new growth has occurred. We've tried many applications- any suggestions? We're getting ready to Holly Tone some of our other plantings and plan to do this one as well. This was an expensive tree..

Answer: Hollies are broadleaf evergreens and while they appear to retain their leaves all year long, some of the oldest leaves eventually turn yellow and fall. They are usually replaced so quickly that you barely notice the loss of foliage. So, a few yellowing leaves over the entire plant is nothing to worry about. However, if entire branches are turning yellow or the entire shrub is losing more leaves than it is retaining, there is definitely a problem. Sometimes insects can attack hollies so you will want to thoroughly inspect your holly for signs of feeding insects. The only other thing that can adversely affect hollies is water stress. Over or underwatering or soils that do not drain well can cause yellowing leaves and leaf drop. You can check the soil moisture level by watering as usual and then waiting 2-3 days. Dig down into the soil near the roots to see how much moisture is there. If it is soggy wet, the site is not draining properly; if the soil is moist 2 inches beneath the surface, you won't need to water for a few more days; if the soil is dry, you are not applying enough water when you water. While you're digging down around the roots, check to see if they are healthy; break a few of them and look inside. Healthy roots are creamy white; dead or diseased roots will be brown or rusty colored. Mushy roots will have an odor. If the root system looks okay then the holly will just need a little more time to adjust to its home. You should see new leaves emerge later this spring. Best wishes with your holly!

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