Identifying Harmful Holly Tree Diseases

Identifying diseases that are harmful to a holly tree is important to a tree’s owner. Being able to identify the types of disease that may cause the tree to become damaged or suffer a premature death will help a holly tree owner apply a fix that will save the tree and prolong its life. Holly trees or shrubs are a common plant that produces holly leaves that are commonly found in homes during the Christmas holiday.

The types of diseases that are harmful to holly trees include tar spot, cankers, purple blotch, spine spot and chlorosis. Each of these diseases are discussed in further detail below.

Tar Spot

Tar spot is a fungal infection that appears on the holly tree. They occur in the spring during periods when the weather is cool and moist. It appears as a yellowish spot on the leaves of the holly. The leaves that have tar spots will turn brown, black, and then eventually fall off.

Inspecting the leaves will reveal incidents of tar spots. When tar spots are noticed, those leaves should be removed immediately to prevent its spread to other leaves on the holly.


Cankers are also a fungal infection, affecting the stems of the leaves. Cankers cause spots on the stems, which undetected will cause the plant to die. Inspection will reveal cankers which are sunken in the stems of the holly. The stems should be cut out and removes from the holly tree immediately to prevent and spreading and further damage.

Purple Blotch

A purple blotch appears when a holly tree is injured, damaged or if it is dry and without nutrients. Purple blotches appear on the leaves of the holly and, as the name indicates, are purple. Removing affected leaves will eliminate the spread of this disease.

Spine Spot

Spine spot occurs when the leaves of the holy perforate. As you should know, the leaves of the holly are sharp and pointy so a perforation will cause them to not grow properly. Spine spot appears to be similar to purple blotch except that the leaves turn gray with a purple ring.

Perforated leaves of the holly that develop spine spot, as with other infected leaves, should be removed from the holly tree.


A holly tree that is iron deficient will develop a condition known as chlorosis. The leaves of the holly appear yellow or pale green with deep green veins. Iron deficiency occurs when the pH balance of the soil is out of balancing. An additive to balance the pH level of the tree’s soil will correct this condition and stop the spread of chlorosis.

Regular and periodic inspection of the leaves and stems of the holly tree will reveal any of these diseases. You should maintain a list of the commonly occurring holly tree diseases and their appearance to identify them and address infections.