40 yr old large Buford holly bush

Asked May 30, 2019, 2:08 PM EDT

What can I do to help this beautiful specimen through various stresses? >Two yrs ago it had the most abundant crop of gorgeous berries I can remember. The following spring it experienced a LARGE amount of leaf drop from the inner branches. What caused it? >Last year it produced an average amount of berries. This spring, when new growth started to show, there was much less (looked thin) new growth at the crown. The crown growth looks better now, but I wondered why it looked different earlier. >Often there are some black spots on the leaves that continue as long as the leaf is alive. Is there something I could apply to minimize /avoid them? Thank You!

Baltimore County Maryland

3 Responses

That sounds like a beautiful old tree.
First off, it is normal for older leaves on hollies to yellow, brown, and drop in the spring. This is normal leaf shedding. See more about that at this link from our website: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/normal-leaf-shedding
You likely may have noticed this before.

We hear though that you are concerned with the thinning and variable fruiting. The fruiting can be natural based on environmental conditions during the growing season, one year from the next. Likewise, broad-leaved evergreens are susceptable to dessication or winter injury, especially if they are dry going into the winter. Often those leaves will brown and fall.

We have been getting reports of hollies declining this season. We do not know exactly why. This does not appear to be insect or disease related and may be an environmental issue. Last year we had twice as much as our normal rainfall.
In general, if the root systems have been acclimated to a certain environment and the conditions change this affects the roots and the health of the plants; for example standing water, lower spots in the yard, poor drainage, etc.

The good news is that hollies are great at flushing new leaves into missing areas when they are happy. If the thinning isn't as noticeable now, it means your tree is doing o.k.
There is nothing that you need to do but enjoy your tree.


Thanks for your guidance about soil moisture! I'm relieved... We have solid clay soil -down at least 12 ft in the back yard... When we added an addition w/ a basement years ago, water drained very slowly after any rainfall. There's not much slope to the yard, but there is some... I've wondered about trying to improve drainage around the holly, even if it was a shallow swale in the lawn at the drip-line to the downhill side, and away from the ~ 20ft tall 'bush'.
Also, is there a way to get rid of the black spots on the leaves? -found especially on SW side of bush, leaves aren't always yellow at the start.

Can you send us a photo of what you are seeing?
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