I have a problem with my Pencil hollies. I have several of these plants throughout my landscape. These are well established since they were planted about five years ago. Just recently I lost one facing the east with morning sun. It just dried up and died. Now I have two others doing the same thing - different location facing the west with afternoon sun. I am in a dilemma. Can you help figure out what's happening?
As always, I appreciate any advice you can give.
- Janet G.
Sky Pencil hollies are a variety of the Japanese holly, Ilex crenata. This particular species is prone to root rot here in the Coastal South due to our heat, humidity and high rainfall potential.
Since these plants grew successfully for you for 5 years, this is not an issue of location or care. This is more likely related to variations in weather conditions. In particular, this summer has been unusually wet. Most areas have received considerably higher than average amounts of rainfall in May and June.
Rainy weather once it gets hot is a major factor in root rot. The water molds that attack and kill the roots are most active in warm, wet soil. Once the roots are attacked and begin to die, the plant can no longer absorb the water it needs and it begins to die of thirst. Watering does not help because there are few or no functioning roots to absorb it. Indeed, generously watering plants with root rot can make matters worse.
There are no effective treatments or cures once plants show symptoms. Hope for drier weather. If you decide to replace any of these, wait until November or early December. Build up the planting areas to be planted with generous amounts of compost or composted manure.
Consumer Horticulture Specialist
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture