Q. We have two holly trees in our front yard that are at least 40 years old. Last summer one of the trees began to get curled leaves and this year the entire tree looks like it is dying. The trees are on the north side of our house and get sun in the morning and afternoon. We were told locally that the trees are probably dying from old age but they didn’t know the name of the tree. We had our entire front yard replaced with desert landscaping this spring but that should not have caused the problem because one of the trees began getting curled leaves last year.
|Plant problem sent in by Reader|
A. Years ago Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) was commonly planted as a foundation plant in southern Nevada. They performed best planted on the north or east sides of a home, somewhat protected from the hot sun.
The most commonly planted Ilex was ‘Bufordii’ or Buford Holly. You can google this name in google images and see if it matches your plant. With the onset of desert plants and desert landscaping it has pretty well been forgotten along with some other really cool plants. All the nurseries in Las Vegas carried it forty years ago and many up to about 20 years ago.
|Buford Holly foliage|
Buford holly is fairly long-lived but I have to agree a bit that as they age, without proper care, they will begin to decline.
|Buford Holly berries (poisonous) from University of Florida website|
I am not sure what the problem is but since one or two limbs are dying back you will most likely see the cause by following those dead limbs back inside the plant until the dying stops. The problem should be at that spot or very close to it.
A real guess is that it might be a wood boring insect that is common to all plants here. I rather doubt that it is a disease but it is most likely mechanical or physical damage by insects tunneling or accidental damage by a human being.
Buford holly is a beautiful plant if it is well cared for. It will get to about six feet, taller in very protected areas. It can be grown into a small tree maybe getting as tall as 20 feet. The thick glossy leaves have spines but not nearly as spiny as English holly.
They will produce more red berries in winter if you have a female plant and there is a male nearby. Sometimes they appear to produce these red berries with no apparent mate nearby. All hollies grow best in rich, slightly acidic soils. They would do nicely grouped with camellias and other sun-tender and acid loving plants.
|From residence in East Texas|
Remove this dead limb by cutting it just above the healthy part of the limb. Add another drip emitter or increase the amount of water that is applied and apply a fertilizer such as Miracid or a fertilizer for acid loving plants at least once a year in the spring. Do it now if it has not had any for awhile.
Applying mulch to the base of the plants will help conserve moisture, add nutrients to the soil, make the soil more acidic, reduce weed problems and improve the general vigor of the plant. It would help to have it pruned carefully by someone who knows how to prune.