What Causes White Holly Spots: Dealing With White Spots On Holly Plants

White Spots On Holly Plant
holly scale
(Image credit: Chazz Hesselein, Alabama Cooperative Extension, Bugwood.org)

Hollies are wonderful and attractive plants to have around, especially for the bright color they provide in the drab winter months, so it can be upsetting to look a little closer than usual and find little white spots all over the leaves. This is a relatively common occurrence and, luckily, it’s easily diagnosable and treatable. Keep reading to learn more about what causes white holly spots and how to deal with white spots on holly leaves.

Why Does My Holly Have Spots on its Leaves?

White spots on holly leaves can almost always be chalked up to one of two things – scale or mites. Both are tiny pests that stab into the leaves of the plant and suck out its juices. If you have a scale infestation, the white spots will be slightly raised and conical in shape - this is the shell that protects the tiny creature underneath. Scrape a fingernail against one of these spots and you should see a little brown smear. If you have spider mites, the white spots you’re seeing are their eggs and cast-off skins. Spider mite infestations are sometimes accompanied by webbing. There’s a chance you also have southern red mites, a common problem with holly plants. While these mites are red as adults, their larvae are white and can appear as little spots on leaves. Also known as “cold weather mites,” these pests tend to appear in autumn and winter.

How to Get Rid of Holly Scale and Mites

Both of these pests are a favorite food of certain beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Sometimes, just moving the plant outdoors where these insects can get to it is enough. If this isn’t possible, or if the plant is already outside, then neem oil is an effective and safe treatment. If your scale infestation is small, you should be able to wipe it away with a damp cloth. If the scale infestation is severe, however, you may have to prune away the leaves that are the most affected.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.