Nellie Stevens Hollies – Yellowish

Q: Two years ago we moved into a newly constructed home. The builder planted thirty-three Nellie Stevens hollies to create a green privacy fence in the backyard. Last summer I noticed they were looking yellowish and dropping lots of leaves. They are on a drip line from the irrigation system. This spring they look even worse and I’m worried I’m going to lose them. A landscaper said they were planted incorrectly since the burlap was left on the root ball and that some of the trees were planted too deep. Any advice or suggestions would be so welcome! 

A: If the landscaper is correct and the burlap was left on all of the rootballs at planting, this would explain the situation. Burlap should never be left on a rootball when you plant. Blame the behavior of water in soil for an explanation. When soil moisture hits a different texture from the one in which it’s traveling, it stops dead in its tracks. It won’t go through that material until the soil behind it is completely saturated. If your plants are on a drip system, the burlap bags might fill up with water before the water starts seeping into the surrounding soil. Roots growing in saturated soil in each bag have a hard time absorbing fertilizer so leaves turn yellow and drop off. My advice is that you dig up one or two plants to check on the burlap situation. If it is still there, you need to dig them all up, remove the burlap, and replant them six feet apart.

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