Distressed Sky Pencils

Asked April 26, 2019, 10:13 AM EDT

Hello I bought three Sky Pencils from Sun Nurseries in June 2014 and planted them facing east by the patio behind my townhouse in Ellicott City. I watered them regularly and used a bit of fertilizer for some months and then left them to the elements. I clipped branches that leaned out and tied rope around them prior to snowstorms. The northernmost one grew highest and the southern one, the least. Now, five years later, they seem to be dying (photos attached). Do you think there is a way to revive them? What do you recommend?

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

Sky pencil is a cultivar of Japanese holly. Sometimes they have the reputation that they are easy to grow but that is not necessarily the case. They grow best in full sun in well-drained soil. They do not like heavy clay soils that can hold water with poor drainage. And with the record-breaking amount of rainfall, we had over the past year soils remained wet for prolonged periods of time.
Japanese hollies are subject to root rot caused by wet soil. They decline over time. This is what looks like is happening to yours. Unfortunately, there is no fix and they will continue to struggle.