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Brown spotted and brown leaves on Holly Tree

I recently planted 2 grown Nellie Stevens Holly trees at the beginning of winter when we had a warm spell 3 weeks ago. I live in Zone 6, clay soil. I noticed the leaves have turned lighter with brown spots, and some are dark brown. One of the trees shows signs of dieback. The branches are brittle, no green when I scratch them. We recently went through a winter freeze, with temperatures between 22-14 F. How can I help my hollies? I’m not sure what is happening to them or how to save them. Any help is appreciated!


  • dinoboamkkcKQPYdinoboamkkcKQPY Posts: 3
    edited 8 January
    The second holly tree photo won’t post, but I photographed the dieback branches. They’re pictured above.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    It looks like it may not have been watered enough at some point before or after planting and has now caught a fungal infection in its weakened state, probably Holly leaf spot.  Hollies prefer acid soil - do you know if your clay is acid or alkaline?
    Here's a US-based site (GW is UK based) which may help:

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,171
    Looking at the surrounding area - it looks absolutely parched, which it will have hated. Hollies need adequate moisture until really well established, and even then - they don't appreciate drought and dry soil long term. 
    I'd agree with @BobTheGardener - it looks like a fungal infection -sooty mould or something similar. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thank you for your help! I have alkaline clay soil, and the other 3 hollies I planted in the same soil a little further away from this spot are thriving. Also it recently rained and snowed, and even a few days after the soil is still moist. Hopefully that will help the hollies with any hydration issues. Can I spray a general fungicide or a water/bleach solution on the leaves in winter? Will that help these hollies?
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