Why Is My Sky Pencil Holly Turning Brown?

For years, the sky pencil holly has been a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers. The tree is fast growing with dense green foliage that is perfect for creating privacy screens or windbreaks.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to properly care for their sky pencil hollies and end up with brown leaves instead of lush green ones.

In this blog post, we will discuss what you need to do in order to keep your sky pencil holly looking its best all year long!

Why Is My Sky Pencil Holly Turning Brown?

Overwatering and leaf burning are the most likely reasons for your sky pencil holly to turn brown. The brown leaves from overwatering are moist, whereas burnt leaves are dry and crispy.

There’s also a chance that spider mites have infested your sky pencil holly, and are now feasting on its leaves.

It’s critical to figure out what caused the leaves to change color. I’ll go through these two causes in-depth, as well as what you can do to avoid it from happening again.

Browning Sky Pencil Holly Leaves from Too Much Water

When you water your sky pencil holly, it’s important to only give the tree so much. Too much water can cause brown leaves on your tree!

In fact, if the roots of your sky pencil holly don’t have enough room to breathe, they will begin to rot and you’ll find yourself with a brown tree instead!

After the tree is established, only water when the soil is dry. Sky Pencil Holly is a drought-tolerant plant that dislikes wet feet, so being late with water is better than being early.

You can also check if your soil already has moisture by sticking your finger down into the dirt to see how dry it is. If you feel some dampness in there, wait a few more days before watering again!

Browning Sky Pencil Holly Leaves from Spider Mites

Spider mites are small bugs that love feasting on the leaves of your sky pencil holly. When there is a large infestation, you’ll notice your tree struggling to stay alive.

It can be difficult to get rid of spider mites if they’re already taking hold in your garden or yard – but not impossible! You can check if the plant has pests by giving the branches a gentle shake and watching to see if any spider mites fall off.

If so, you’ll need a pesticide that is safe for sky pencil holly trees. I like using neem oil (Amazon link) because it is organic and safe to use.

To apply the neem oil, simply shake the bottle well before spraying your sky pencil holly with a gentle stream of water (to help spread the pesticide). Then, coat every leaf carefully using an old paintbrush or rag.

Browning Sky Pencil Holly Leaves from Leaf Burn

Leaf burn is often the result of too much sun exposure, which can dry out your sky pencil holly’s leaves.

When you have a sunny spot in your yard where the sky pencil holly gets lots of sunlight throughout the day, it may be time to move it! While this tree does do well with partial shade, too much sun can cause the leaves to burn.

If you are unable to move your sky pencil holly due to space limitations, there are still things that can be done in order for it to survive! You will want to provide some form of shade over the tree when possible. This could come from a nearby taller plant or even an umbrella!

Also, you will need to water your tree more frequently if it is in the sun. This applies even to trees that are established because they still require some watering!

Browning Sky Pencil Holly Leaves FAQs

This plant isn’t the easiest plant to care for. As such, I will now answer some common questions I get asked about the leaves of this beautiful plant.

Will brown sky pencil holly leaves turn green again?

No, it is unlikely for brown leaves to turn green again. The brown leaves were killed by the overwatering or sun exposure, and will never come back. The good news is that the rest of the plant should be okay and it will eventually grow new leaves.

Should I remove brown leaves from my sky pencil holly?

Yes, you should remove brown leaves from your sky pencil holly. The reason for this is because there could be a chance of infection or other diseases if the affected area is left on the plant.

Will too much water cause the sky pencil holly to turn brown?

Yes, it will cause the sky pencil holly to turn brown. This can happen if you are constantly watering your sky pencil holly, even when it is established!

Will direct sun cause sky pencil holly leaves to turn brown?

Yes, direct sun will cause sky pencil holly leaves to turn brown. Not only that, but it can also damage your tree if you do not provide proper shading for the plant!


In conclusion, the sky pencil holly will only thrive if you give it the proper care. This means being attentive to its water needs, as well as providing adequate shade!

If you have any questions about this plant or other plants in general, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help out! Thanks for reading 🙂

5 thoughts on “Why Is My Sky Pencil Holly Turning Brown?”

  1. Hi there! I recently planted several 3 foot Sky Pencils in a row. I noticed most of them that are exposed to the sun are dying. But there is one that is under a tree that is thriving. Should I over water the ones that are brown?

    • 3 feet tall Sky Pencills means that they are mature plants already. It is normal to find it losing some leaves after transplanting while the roots are getting established in the new location. It requires full sun to partial shade.

      Since you have one plant doing well with partial shade – you could setup a temporay cover over the plants to give them some shade until they are established in their new spot in the garden.

      I would also try mulching around the base of the plant as well to cover the soil to stop evaporation of the moisture from the soil.

      You could also look into the soil to see if it has proper drainage and try not to over water them. Wet soil can make the roots to rot – which you will know when the folilage turns into pale green.

  2. My 2 newly planted sky pencil Holly’s tips are turning brown..I thought because of extreme heat they needed more water….if I stop the extra water, do they have a chance..I see new growth on the trunk..

    • Sky Pencil plants like a moderate amount of soil moisture. Keep young shrubs in evenly moist but not soggy soil to help them establish their root systems. Mature shrubs have some drought tolerance, and they also can tolerate occasional flooding. However, sitting for too long in wet soil can cause the foliage to turn a pale green and ultimately rot the roots, killing the plant. Water whenever you can stick your finger into the soil and it feels dry a couple of inches down.

      I’m a big fan of mulching. If you haven’t done it yet – to help maintain adequate soil moisture and keep the roots cool, add a two to four-inch layer of mulch around the shrub.

  3. My pencil pine tree planted on a pot for almost 4 years. The leaves are turning brown. When i checked the pot it is full of roots, perhaps the water can no longer penetrate inside the pot. Is this the reason why the leaves are turning brown.

    What is the best remedy, will i plant it directly to the soil?

    Thank you


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