Nellie Stevens trees turning brown and dry. Help!

nadya1972March 22, 2014

Just joined and am writing in hopes of getting some advice on bringing my Nellie Stevens holly trees back to life. We bought 10 of them in October, large healthy chunky trees about 9 feet tall. We've been watering religiously as the grower instructed plus as you know, it's been raining and snowing.

Four+ months later, they aren't doing as well as I thought. Many leaves have turned brown and brittle; I've cut off the dry ones at one point, but more have appeared. There are still some green leaves, but lots of brown ones. They are in the full sun spot, no shade at all.

I've posted some images below. Can you please help me with sage advice, either good news or bad? What can I do to help them get healthy? I would hate to chuck them and I can't help but think that if I put new ones over there, they would suffer the same fate. Thank you in advance!

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nadya1972

More pictures

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Did you have a cold winter? Have you been poking around in the soil to make sure the original soil balls they came with have stayed moist the whole time, and not been either too dry or too wet? Any chemical usage in the vicinity, including road salt?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:43PM
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nadya1972

More

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:43PM
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nadya1972

more

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:44PM
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nadya1972

We did have a colder-than-usual winter with lots of snow. I don't know of any chemical usage other than perhaps road salt, but the road is quite a ways away from the trees. I haven't really poked inside to see the root ball - I know NOTHING about this so I wouldn't know anything about a root ball by looking at it :) What to do?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:56PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Any that might be able to grow back later would surely benefit from mulching, if cold injury was the problem and not something pathenogenic or otherwise able to interfere with recovery during the coming growing season - mulching them at planting last fall might have reduced the damage as well.

If you can take samples to a nearby Virginia Cooperative Extension office they can probably figure it out.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 5:02PM
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gardengranma(6a/6b MD)

Don't worry that is mostly frost damage- hollies always shed a lot in the winter- this year more than usual. I would put up with the sad picture for a while and when it is really warm I would pluck them off , wear gloves. This does not look so bad to me at all- and I have some myself- the wind blew them all into my pond- great fun that was.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 2:48PM
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nadya1972

Thank you both! So there is hope they wouldn't die if we fertilize, mulch and continue with watering when needed?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:56PM
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jimcoliton(7)

I have the same happening with my Nellie Stephens. I sent pictures to my landscaper who put them in 3 years ago. He said it is just winter stress and that new growth should be showing up in the next few weeks. Not to worry. I do mulch every year and he suggested possible adding some fertilizer (Holly-Tone or the like.) I've also been reading on line and Spring is a big time for the hollies to shed old leaves and start new growth. So I think you should be fine.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 11:04AM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

The copper is typical after a hard cold winter. The snow doesn't do it as much as the cold does. UNLESS there is a long lasting snowpack then the cold ground might.

I've had mine turn copper like that then comes back as it is now in the Spring. Recovery time depends how hard they got hit. The burn mark is not weather related...that looks like over fertilizing.

I NEVER fertilize when plants/trees are stressed. They need to be neutralized either naturally or lightly. Forget the Holly tone for now. Let them color up first and rebound.

One thing you can do is scratch the bark at the bottom, if there is green underneath the bark ITS ALIVE...don't do anything... If there's no green its dead.

Good luck... Give them another month before fertilizing IMO

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:46AM
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cindylou111

The fridge cold of this past winter turned my 1.5 yr holly leaves brown, there is new growth at the bottom sprouting out. Do I cut the stem with the brown leaves down to where the new growth is or will the brown leaves just shed on their own and produce new stems eventually? Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 9:48AM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

Scratch the stem. If there's green its alive. If not cut it down to where the new growth starts. I leave an inch or two always. leaves will fall on there own but you can pluck them off.

Sounds lie al of us went through the same thing this year. What a winter!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:18PM
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