En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - August 10, 2008

From: Tulsa, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Propagation, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Hollies not retaining leaves in Tulsa
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have Little Red Hollies that have lost their leaves, some areas being bald. They are also not full - you can see through them. These were planted in this condition Spring of '08 and have been watered and fertilized. Do I need to shear them this fall to encourage new growth to fill in the bald spots and make the plant fuller?

ANSWER:

The Little Red Holly is a hybrid, referred to as Ilex x "Little Red". From this Mississippi State University Office of Agricultural Communications Holly Hybrid Group Gains Two Varieties we learned that "Little Red" is a hybrid of the North American native holly Ilex opaca (American holly), growing to a shorter total height than the standard holly.

We're a little concerned about your description of the condition these shrubs were in when they were planted in the Spring. At that time of year, nursery stock should have been fresh and looking good. Was this something you bought, maybe on sale, late in the season, or perhaps something a landscaper planted for you? Plants that have been in their pots for too long can become rootbound, their roots wrapping around and around and losing the ability to put any new rootlets out into the surrounding soil when the plants are planted in the ground. Hollies seem to be particularly bad about that. When a plant has become rootbound, it needs to have some clipping of roots in the ball before it is placed in the ground. You can be pretty brutal and snip through roots, and then plant and water the bush. Or the plant may have been kind of sickly in the first place, and that's how it ended up on the Sale table, if, indeed that's what happened. Those are just speculations and, at any rate, you can't go back and replant the bush-that would do it more damage than leaving it as it is.

Go to the branches that are bare of leaves and, with your thumbnail, scrape a little "skin" off the branch. If there is still green material under that bark, the branch is still alive. Cut back any deadwood to the point at which you find greenwood with your scraping. You can wait until it cools off a little to do that, or go ahead and do it now. Don't do any other trimming, leaving all live wood and green leaves on the bush to continue to nourish the bush. Stick a hose down in the dirt around the bush and let a slow dribble of water trickle in until water reaches the surface. Do this every other day. If water stands a half hour or more on the surface, you have clay soil and poor drainage, so you will need to cut back on the water, and do it more often. You don't want to drown your roots, either. If possible, work some compost or other organic material in around the roots to improve the drainage. Then, mulch the roots with shredded hardwood bark, to hold in moisture, and protect from heat and cold. As this mulch decomposes, it will put more organic material into the soil, helping the bush even more. In the early Spring, add some balanced fertilizer to the soil, and the nitrogen in it should help to encourage new leaves. If it does begin to leaf out and look better, you can assume that whatever was holding it back, roots or bad drainage, has been addressed and the shrub should recover.

The pictures below are of Ilex opaca (American holly) itself, not of "Little Red." This is just to give you an idea of what the healthy leaves should look like.


Ilex opaca

Ilex opaca

 

 

More Propagation Questions

Propagation of indoor plants for school project
January 28, 2008 - I have an assignment for school that requires that I get two indoor plants. One has to grow in water and one has to grow in soil. Each plant needs to grow at a fast pace, and at about the same pace....
view the full question and answer

Problems with Shumard oak in San Antonio
May 18, 2010 - Hello. I live in San Antonio and Have a question about a Shumard Red Oak. It's growing at an average pace, seems a little more vigorous this year. It's a nice tree with great fall colors. HOWEVER, w...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of an agave from Dripping Springs TX
April 30, 2014 - Hi there, I have a Century Agave in my backyard. It is over 6 feet tall and is now producing the center stalk. I understand that means the plant is going to die. My question is how to harvest the pups...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Mexican buckeye from seeds in San Antonio
October 02, 2009 - I recently collected seeds from a Mexican buckeye. Is it best to plant them now or wait until spring? Do they need to be scarified?
view the full question and answer

Flowering plant for gravesite in Weatherford TX
June 23, 2013 - I want to plant flowering plant of some kind at parent's grave site in Weatherford, TX. The family cemetery is on a limestone hill with no irrigation or ability to water other than nature. Would on...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center