I just purchased (30) 1-gallon Holly bushes at Lowe's Home & Garden Center. I placed them out back, behind the garage for 'protection' until I got around to planting them. They've been there only 2 weeks. I looked outside yesterday to see that either something got into all 30 bushes (chipmunks?) and was attempting to eat the leaves (they are prickly!), or something has caused them to 'shed'. I have kept them watered, but we have had so much rain lately, that nature has taken care of that. Any ideas? Suggestions?
Holly Bush Defoliation
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
First of all, holly leaves are naturally prickly, so that doesn't help much. Secondly, I seriously doubt a chipmunk or other animal has eaten the leaves. Insect pests, on the other hand, are possible, though probably not as likely in this case. Nonetheless, check the plants carefully for pests. I would even say to go as far as to treat the plants with an insecticide (I like neem oil, myself - effective and organic) just in case.
Most likely, the plants are simply stressed and shedding the leaves as a result of this. Do the leaves turn brown or yellow before they fall off? Brown leaves would indicate a disease issue or drying out, while yellowing of the leaves could be from a number of things. Here is an article on some possible causes of the stress: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/holly/holly-yellow-leaves.htm