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Avatar for Adamgrey80
May 15, 2020 6:41 AM CST
Thread OP
Easton, PA
I planted 12 Steeds Holly bushes in October 2018 and am at my wits end as to why they are doing so much worse now than when they were first planted (see attached before and after pictures). I have mounded them up a bit to ensure the root balls are not sitting in our dense, sometimes saturated clay soil, amended the planting mix with peat moss and fresh topsoil for good drainage, and included organic compost for nutrients. I have also been applying Holly Tone at the recommended rates both spring and fall. Last winter was pretty mild and weather conditions seem like they would be conducive to good growth (we live in Zone 6). But still, almost all the plants are very sparse with lots of yellow leaves at their centers. Any ideas on what might be going on with these guys and how to fix it?

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Avatar for oneeyeluke
May 15, 2020 2:07 PM CST
Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
Quitter's never Win
Birds Cat Lover Dog Lover Hummingbirder Organic Gardener
Steeds Holly Bushes need a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. It is very fussy about its soil and must have rich, acidic soils to ensure success, because this plant will develop chlorosis "yellowing"of the leaves in alkaline soils. That's what it looks like to me looking at the photos. If the original soil pH is alkaline and you add peat, but not enough peat to keep the pH stable, it will rise back to the original soil pH quickly. It looks like this is the case with your declining Steeds.

If you want to find out for sure absolutely without any doubt, get a soil test from the soil lab for about $30. I use the local university in my state anytime I can't find out what's wrong with the soil or plants. Brother, I've gotten a lot, and every test, I ever had tested, was well worth the money.
NOT A EXPERT! Just a grow worm! I never met a plant I didn’t love.✌
Avatar for Adamgrey80
May 28, 2020 12:45 PM CST
Thread OP
Easton, PA
Luke - Thanks for the advice! Attached are a couple pictures with the current status (still not great, doing slightly worse). On 5/16 I used my soil tester to take several readings around all of the plants, all of which were between 6-7, definitely too high for good growth. I applied two cups each of Espoma Soil Acidifier a week ago to try and counteract the potential iron chlorosis. Perhaps it is too early to see signs of recovery, but I do not want to let them go too long and risk them dying.

I also reached out to my local extension office to see if they would do a soil test or some other diagnostic test that could determine the cause of the problem.
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