Dead holly bush: any theories?

rojonogoSeptember 9, 2013

Something killed this holly bush very quickly and thoroughly, within just a few weeks. This happened late last winter. It is along the road at the top of our ridge, where we don't see it everyday. We didn't see it dying; it was fine and then within about 3 weeks, we saw it was dead and naked. Neither bush beside it was affected at the time. Months later, the bush on its left began to look sickly with leaves falling off. It is dead too now, although this time it took the better part of a year to die. We saw no sign of pests or disease. It looks more like someone put Roundup on the first bush, although I can't imagine that. Any theories?

I am posting a couple shots of the bushes. One, where you can't se the dead bush, shows how the bushes looked beforehand, and that they are still healthy. The shot of the dead bush shows how it came to look after just a few weeks last year.

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This shows that the other bushes are healthy and unaffected.

The one area that appears a little thin is the dead bush.

Any guesses as to how this happened?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 11:27AM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

They get both an aerial fungal (Phytophthora) blight -- all the leaves drop -- and a root rot, not necessarily at the same time.

Both are made worse by excess water. The aerial blight by overhead water (sprinkler irrigation or rainfall), the root rot by soggy soil.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 3:54PM
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Thank you. We have had a really rainy summer but I can't remember about last year. We don't water them ourselves because they're on top of the ridge.

I'm still puzzled why it killed the first one so completely and quickly, while the others were unaffected at the time.

Any advice as to how to save the others from this fate?

Thank you again for your reply. :-)

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 6:37PM
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oops, duplicate post

This post was edited by Canna_Getanamen on Tue, Sep 10, 13 at 12:28

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 6:41PM
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kimpa(z6b PA)

I had a china girl holly look completely dead. My gardener friends said it was completely dead but I just left it alone. It grew back and has been growing strong for at least 5 years.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 8:58AM
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Kimpa, how long did yours take to show new signs of life?

Did new leaves grow all over, or just from the bottom?

I am wondering whether to prune off most of this bush but leave the root and lower branches.

(Soggy soil shouldn't have been a problem, so I don't think root rot was likely. The bushes grow atop a ridge of Deep South clay, and rainfall drains down the ridge behind them toward our house.)

Then again, I wonder what will look weirder: A bare-bones bush in a line of healthy ones, or a big empty space there.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 12:35PM
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kimpa(z6b PA)

It was awhile ago but I am almost sure it gave new growth on the branches not just from the base. I like to experiment in the garden and I am not so concerned how things look to other people. When people ask me about their dead looking plants I suggest that they wait to be sure it won't recover.

Upon rereading your post it look likes it died over the winter. If it didn't leaf out over the spring/summer then I am sure it is dead! But if there is one plant that just lost its leaves, I would wait to see if it grows leaves next spring and not prune it now.

I wish I could tell you what is wrong but I don't know...It is always sad when a plant that is part of a set dies. You may want to consider replacing the dead ones with shrubs of a different kind or leaving the spaces so that the existing hollies have more airflow and room to grow.

Best Wishes, Kim

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 6:03PM
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Thanks, Kim. :-)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 3:48PM
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