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?


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
27 ratings

Friday - May 01, 2009

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Older leaves yellowing on Savannah holly in Dallas
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I planted a Savannah Holly in Dallas, TX in the Fall of 2008. It has new growth and some white buds all over it, but some of the older leaves are turning yellow and dropping off. Is this normal?


There are thirteen members of the genus Ilex (holly) in our Native Plant Database, but none of them have the common name "Savannah." That is probably a trade name assigned by a grower to a hybrid of North American natives Ilex cassine (dahoon) and Ilex opaca (American holly). Even though both parents are natives, the "x" indicates a hybrid, and we do not have hybrids in our Native Plant Database.

According to the USDA Forest Service website Ilex x attenuata 'Savannah', the yellowing leaves sound like symptoms of chlorosis. Ilex opaca (American holly), in particular, likes acid soils, which you are not likely to have in Dallas. The problem is probably due to alkalinity in the soil beyond the plant's preferences. The alkalinity in the soil keeps the soil from accessing trace elements in the soil. this leads to iron deficiency. Suggested fixes were sprays of iron chelate, sulfur, and iron fertilizer. We prefer adding compost to the soil and mulching the roots with shredded wood bark, on a continuing basis. The compost will help with access to the trace elements, improve drainage in the soil, and help hold in moisture. The mulch protects the roots from heat and cold, holds in moisture, and as it decomposes, continues to amend the soil. 


More Shrubs Questions

A Bounty of Edibles for New Braunfels Texas
October 25, 2013 - I was hoping you could suggest a few plants that would serve several purposes. I live in New Braunfels, TX and would like to incorporate as many drought tolerant plants which would support birds, but...
view the full question and answer

Native shrub for north window in Austin, TX
March 23, 2008 - Hello. I am trying to find a native shrub to provide privacy next to a low north-facing window and protection from northerly winds in the winter. I would like to find a shrub with a maximum height o...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing of leaves in Texas Mountain Laurel from Austin
June 25, 2012 - I planted a Texas Mountain Laurel in my Austin, TX yard this January. The tree was good sized (about 5 feet tall) when I planted it. Recently the leaves of the tree have started to turn yellow alon...
view the full question and answer

Death of non-native eleaegnus from Austin
March 30, 2013 - We have a long hedge of elaeagnus, about 5 ft tall. Four of them died in the middle of the hedge. Where can we find such big plants? Is it advisable to unroot and transplant from another area?
view the full question and answer

Large-scale container garden for New York City
August 17, 2013 - I am a community volunteer in NYC who is trying to help a non-profit set up two large container gardens (about 3 feet high by 4 feet long by 2 or so feet wide). The problem is that they want natives,...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center