Do Holly Trees Lose Their Leaves?

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Holly trees are flowering plants that belong in the family Aquifoliaceae. These evergreens come in the form of trees and shrubs and bring a beautiful, dark green backdrop to a garden. If you’ve just planted a few holly trees or are thinking about it, you probably have questions regarding the care they need. Perhaps you live in a changing climate, and you are asking if your holly will lose those impressionable green leaves with the cold weather. With combined research, we have found this answer and more regarding hollies and their leaves. 

The holly tree is an evergreen plant. This classification means the holly tree won’t lose its leaves with the onset of cold weather. If your holly tree does lose most of its foliage in the winter months, it might be experiencing winter damage or drying out. 

While this tree shouldn’t lose all its leaves, it will lose some. You can expect many old leaves to fall off during spring. This is called the spring leaf drop and mostly affects the interior of the plant. 

So, yes, holly trees do lose their leaves, but not all of them. If your holly does lose them all, it may be suffering from an underlying disease or pest infestation. Continue reading as we discuss why and when your holly may lose some leaves and answer if these lost leaves can grow back.

Christmas holly bush with red berries, Do Holly Trees Lose Their Leaves?

When Do Holly Trees Lose Their Leaves?

Holly trees are vigorous and strong. It may surprise you when they begin to lose leaves, but this doesn’t always mean to raise alarm. In springtime, you can expect that a healthy holly tree will lose older leaves close to the shrub’s interior. Like most evergreens, hollies drop older leaves to make room for the new growth ahead. A holly that is not stressed and isn’t suffering from other deficiencies or infestations should only drop interior leaves. Green leaves on the exterior branches will remain healthy and full of color.

Focus picture of holly leaf

If your holly is turning colors and leaves are dropping after these spring months or at random times, something may be wrong. Over-stressed plants drop more leaves than they should. Keeping up with the conditions and care of your holly is vital to avoid a thinned-out or unattractive look for your tree. 

Learn more on our blog post, Do Holly Trees Need Full Sun?

Why Are My Holly Leaves Turning Yellow And Falling Off?

Your holly leaves turning yellow and falling off may just be following the pattern of the spring leaf drop. What if your tree is changing and dropping leaves outside this season? Dying leaves at random times of the year should bring up concerns. This can mean your holly is suffering from common diseases, pests, or a deficiency in the environment. Let’s take a closer look at what could be happening to your yellowing holly. 

Selective focus on water drops on holly bush on rainy day with soft green background

Water Issues

Despite their hardy nature, issues with watering can cause major problems with a holly tree. Too much water, a lack of water, or insufficient drainage in the soil can all cause leaves to turn yellow and fall off. These trees should receive 2 inches of water per week, ideally. This is especially important to pay attention to if you live in a dry climate. Hollies are susceptible to drought damage caused by a sudden dry period in the climate. 

Learn more on our blog post, How Much Water Does A Holly Tree Need?

Phytophthora Root Rot

Phytophthora is a water mold fungi. A holly may suffer from this if planted too deeply, the ground is over-mulched or the soil has poor drainage. Symptoms of this disease include early leaf drop, yellowing of the leaves at the shoot tips and slowed growth. 

Tar Spot

Yellow spots on the leaves can be an indication your holly is suffering from tar spot. This is a disease caused by the fungus Macroderma curtisii and often appears in the month of May. You may notice yellowing of both leaves and berries. 

Holly leaves mottled in winter

Southern Red Mite

The Southern Red mite, or Oligonychus ilicis, feeds on the underside of holly leaves. These spider-like mites will feed on the leaves, leaving yellow spots behind. Eventually, the leaves will go from yellow to brown and fall off. You can check for mites by looking at the underside of your leaves or shaking a branch over a white surface. 

Winter Damage

Damage caused by winter weather can leave your Holly with yellow to brown leaves, defoliation, twig and leaf death, or death of the entire plant. Weather damage usually affects just one side of the plant or sections. This is different from what we see with normal spring leaf drop. 

Read more on our blog post, 7 Of The Best Fertilizers For Holly Bushes [And How To Use It]

Will Holly Leaves Grow Back?

Holly leaves will grow back. During spring leaf drop, it is only the old leaves that drop away from the tree. This is making space for new, bright-green leaves to thrive in the next season. Did your holly suffer a loss of leaves due to disease or another health issue? Don’t worry. After addressing the underlying issues, you can begin efforts to promote new leaf growth within your tree. 

Woman reaching up with secateurs to cut twigs of green holly with bright red berries

Renovation pruning is a technique commonly used to restart or rejuvenate a holly tree. This process involves pruning unkept or damaged branches, dense areas of your trees and branches that are crossing over one another. This intense pruning should be done right before the winter months and will encourage dense new growth. 

The video below is a detailed guide on pruning your holly:

Read more on our blog post, How To Grow Holly From Cuttings [Holly Propagation Guide]

Does Holly Stay Green All Year?

Many of us associate holly leaves and their red berries with the holiday season. Will the holly trees in the yard remain as green as your holiday wreath? The answer is yes, holly leaves stay green all year. These trees may shine the best in the winter months. Show off those ruby-red berries and waxy, dark green leaves. 

Robin in the snow

These plant berries begin to turn red in autumn and remain throughout winter. Those eye-catching berries aren’t just for aesthetics. They also make a tasty meal for a variety of passing birds and squirrels. Keep in mind that a holly tree losing leaves in winter may be the result of weather damage or drying out. 

Read more on our blog post, How Long Does A Holly Tree Live?

In Summary

You can expect a healthy holly tree to lose some leaves in the spring. Leaves lost in this period are typically old and near the center of your plant. If you notice your holly losing leaves after spring or during random times of the year, start looking for an underlying issue. Struggling, damaged, or infested hollies can be revived. Pruning will help this process greatly.

This species has been recognized for its hardy nature and willingness to thrive in varying conditions with its all-year-round green leaves and those bright red berries. We hope you found this article insightful when it comes to caring for your holly. 

Are you looking to build a living fence with your holly trees? Have a look at our blog post, 5 Of The Best Holly Trees For Privacy, to get some ideas. 

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