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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.

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

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Wednesday - June 17, 2009

From: Friendswood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Problems with Savannah Holly plants in Friendswood, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have planted 4 savannah hollies in front of my house, two on the left of the door and two on the right. If you are standing in front of my house and looking at the door, the sun rises at the back left (about 10:00 position) and sets in the front right (about the 4:00 position)so first I noticed that the tree closest to the right is taller and fuller than all of the others, then the one to it's left if a little less tall and full, then the one to it's left is even less so, until the last one and it's in poor shape indeed. I am guessing this is due to the amount of time in the sun. So I wanted to know what I can do to make it up to the holly tree? Is there something I can do to the last one to make it grow? Also, can I do something to make it fill in and make more branches in the middle?

ANSWER:

 Savannah Holly, Ilex attenuata, a cultivar of Ilex opaca x Ilex cassine, has a light requirement of partial shade to full sun which translates into more than 2 hours of sun a day. While the duration of sun exposure as a cause is a tempting hypothesis, Mr. Smarty Plants is thinking that the appearance each of the plants would be different if that were the case. The far more likely cause is something going on in the rootzone. The most likely scenario is differences across the gradient from right to left in the amount of good soil or in the quality of drainage. Another possibility is a root-borne disease affecting the shrubs in a gradient from one side of the yard to the other.

Unfortunately, we are unable to diagnose this problem via e-mail, so I suggest that you contact the Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office  for some help closer to home.

 

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