Nellie Stevens Holly--Blight? Fungal Disease? Root Rot?

Asked March 28, 2018, 2:39 PM EDT

Hello, I purchased and planted three (expensive!) Nellie Stevens Holly trees about 18 months ago. I am red/green color blind, but my wife noticed today that many of the leaves have turned brown, or half brown, as shown in the photo. The trees are very abundantly full of berries, and few leaves have fallen, but this is quite scary. We would greatly appreciate your assistance and advice! Michael

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

It looks like your holly has winter damage. We are seeing a lot of this symptom this year (in hollies especially, and also crape myrtles). This winter scorch symptom develops during dry, windy, warm or sunny winter days when the ground is frozen. Plants are unable to move water from the frozen soil to replace the water being lost from the exposed leaves. You can read more about winter scorch on our website. In your photo, it looks like there is a broken branch but there are leaves and stems that still look healthy. We recommend that you just wait until we get some warmer weather. If the buds are not damaged, new growth will develop and the old leaves will eventually drop off. Once you see where there is new growth, you can prune out any branches that are dead and did not recover. Also, since these are newly planted shrubs, I recommend that you check them regularly during the growing season to make sure they have adequate water. Water if needed during dry periods. In addition, a layer of mulch around the base (no more than 2" deep and not touching the stem of the plant) can help retain moisture. There is information about post-planting care on our website: