Holly trees dropping their new green leaves

Asked June 21, 2018, 12:35 PM EDT

Hello, I have many 35+ year old self-seeded holly trees on my property in Anne Arundel County. I am familiar with their annual springtime shedding of yellow leaves. Last month, however, two of the trees that are spaced 10' apart shed about 90% of their green leaves from the bottom 2/3 of the branches, while the upper branches seemed to remain fairly healthy. The leaf dropped then stopped. This week I noticed that additional green leaves are beginning to fall, presumably from the upper 1/3. I don't think that any of this drop has been caused by our heavy rains knocking the leaves off.

Any suggestions on what I can test or do to save my trees? Thank you.

Anne Arundel County Maryland

3 Responses

This does not sound good. Please send us photos of the trees so we can see what you may be dealing with. Send photos of the whole tree, around the base of the tree, and affected foliage. Also send photos of the site around the tree. Let us know if there has been any type of construction, mechanical root damage, etc.


Due to the density of other trees, these photos aren't very clear.

There have been no changes/disturbances to the soil or surrounding area, thank you.

This is not one of the usual holly problems. We suspect that it is a culmination of several environmental factors such as last fall's drought, long warm fall that led to poor winter hardiness, severe cold temperatures, and a ton of rain this year.

We suggest you do not cut off or prune back bare branches. Give the plants a chance to recover. The green leaves on the sucker/seedling in the first photo suggests that the roots are still alive. Give them until next spring, and see if they leaf out better then. (Of course, you can always remove dead branches with no green under bark when you scratch it.)

If you see any disease or insect signs slowing on affected leaves--not the totally brown or green leaves--by all means send us clear close-ups.