Holly Tar Spots On Leaves Of Holly Plants
holly leaf spot1
(Image credit: James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster)

Most types of holly plants are normally very resilient. All holly plants, however, are susceptible to a few holly problems. One of those problems is holly leaf spot, also known as holly tar spot. This holly disease can defoliate a holly bush, so it is important to keep a close eye out for it.

Holly Leaf Spot Symptoms

The symptoms of this holly disease are easy to see. Most types of holly plants will first show black, yellow, or brownish spots on the leaves. Eventually, the leaves will start to fall off the bush. Typically, the holly leaves will start to fall off the bottom of the plant and work its way up the plant. Leaves will normally fall off the plant in the spring but the spots will first appear in late fall or winter.

Holly Disease Leaf Spot Causes

Holly leaf spot is normally caused by several fungi, which are either Phacidium curtisii, Coniothyrium ilicinum, or Phytophthora ilicis. The fungi each attack different types of holly plants but they all cause holly problems that are very similar.

Holly Leaf Spot Management and Prevention

Proper holly plant care is the best way to prevent and manage this holly disease. All types of holly plants will be able to fend off these holly problems if they are healthy and hardy. To prevent leaf spot, prune holly bushes so that they have good air circulation and sunlight. Also, plant holly bushes in suitable conditions for the holly type. Do not water your holly bushes in the morning or at night. If you recognize early on that your holly bush has been affected (while the spots are still yellow), you can apply a fungicide to the bush and this may reverse the progress of the holly problems. Once holly leaf spot starts causing the leaves to fall, there is little you can do to stop its progress. Fortunately, the leaf drop will only harm the look of the plant. The bush will survive and will grow new leaves. One important holly plant care tip to prevent the return of the fungus the next year is to gather up all of the fallen leaves and destroy them. Do not compost infected leaves. Also, remove affected leaves from the bush and destroy these as well. While holly leaf spot is unsightly, it is not deadly. Your holly bushes will recover as long as appropriate steps are taken to prevent the return of this holly disease.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.