Q: A good-looking Sky Pencil holly bush was here in 2011 and is doing well. We planted another Sky Pencil as a replacement for a sick one that was here originally. The replacement Sky Pencil is sick now, too. Can you tell me why one of the plants has done well in its location, but the other two have failed in another location?
A: Because I don’t know where and how your hollies are planted (full sun, shade, etc.), I will tell you a bit about how a Sky Pencil holly should be planted. The shrub adapts well to full morning sun or partial shade. In this area, the shrubs should be protected from harsh afternoon sun, if possible. The plant likes well-drained soil. The planting hole should be dug to the depth of the root ball, and two to three times as wide. Compost should be added to clay or sandy soil. After installing the shrub and back-filling the planting hole, press the soil down with your foot to remove air pockets. Water deeply after planting and top with some type of organic mulch to keep the plant’s root system cool and moist and to keep weeds at bay. After the shrub matures, if you choose to prune the plant, do so in late February or early March. In the spring, apply a special evergreen fertilizer. Spread the fertilizer over the root zone and apply plenty of water. Once the plant is well established, there is no need to apply water except during dry spells. I hope this helps you understand what your Pencil holly needs. Thanks for writing.
Q: I relocated a tea rose a couple of years ago. The rose did well at first, but now looks sickly. I really want to save it because the rose has been in my family for several years. The leaves dropped off in the summer and the stems appear to have a fungus, or lichen, or something else growing on them. Can you tell me what to do to save it?
A: Tea roses are difficult to grow. They need to be pruned and all spotted leaves removed, and the ground around the plant should be kept clean of fallen leaves and other debris. At any sign of a fungus, the rose bush should be sprayed with a fungicide. If any type of insect is present, spray with an insecticide. All roses need to be planted in full sun and fertilized with rose plant food, and they need plenty of water. Apply the water to the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry. The abundant rain we received this spring and summer may have caused fungus on the plant. Pruning the rose bush will help. I would wait until late February or early March and prune the bush down to about 12 inches.
Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County Master Gardener and an experienced garden writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others in their gardening endeavors. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.