Last updated on March 23rd, 2022
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Camellias are fantastic shrubs with stunning flowers that bloom between autumn and early summer. Some of the most common problems, of course, relate to having incorrect growing conditions, as is often the case although there are a handful of pest and disease problems that could be affecting your Camellias. The trick is to narrow down the area of the shrub that is being affected so that you can further refine the list of problems to the one most likely to be bothering your plant.
Non-flowering Camellias and bud drop
The most common problem associated with Camellias is with the flowers or the lack of them. Usually, the flower buds develop but then fall off instead of opening. Usually, this is the result of bad conditions in the environment, dry soil due to lack of soil, or cold snaps in the morning combined with the morning sun. Again it’s important to protect them over the winter with bubble wrap or horticultural fleece to help prevent this from happening with container-grown plants.
Not enough sun
It could also be the result of inadequate sunlight and if you have placed your plant in an area where it gets too much shade this could happen. It’s important that you give it access to the sun in the morning with dappled shade in the afternoon for best results. If they don’t get morning sun they need at least to have dappled shade all day.
Problems with the Roots
Honey fungus or Phytophthora root
Starting at the bottom of the plant, if you dig around at the roots and find that they are soft and brown it is indicative of root decay. This can be caused by root disease, the most common of which include honey fungus or Phytophthora root rot. This problem is most common in container-grown plants.
Waterlogging leading to root rot
The biggest cause behind root decay is waterlogging. This can happen to container-grown plants with insufficient drainage or when the potting soil or compost loses structure, however, it can also affect plants you grow in the ground in wet soils. If you have container-grown plants it is in your best interest to re-pot them in a timely fashion before they become too rootbound, but be careful not to pot them into a pot that is too large because this can also cause waterlogging.
Root death of container-grown plants from winter frost
Of course, another potential cause is the weather over winter and hard prolonged frosts. In some parts of the UK where we get harsher winters, container-grown plants can be seriously affected by a hard frost or cold snaps because the roots freeze. You can help prevent this by wrapping your containers with horticultural fleece or bubble wrap to keep them warm.
Vine weevil grubs eating the roots
If you notice when repotting that your Camellia has fewer roots than it should, or you find white grubs in the compost, this is indicative of Vine Weevil. This is something you will likely find with container-grown plants. The larvae actually feed on the roots and the adult beetles eat away at the leaves, leaving small holes in the leaves.
You can actually control vine weevil by using a drench called Provado Vine Weevil Killer, which you mix and pour over the roots whilst still in the pot. You can buy it from Amazon.co.uk by clicking here
Dying back of stems and branches
Moving up the plant, if you notice that the branches themselves are dying this is a symptom of root problems. Branch dieback happens when your plant is struggling to absorb water in the roots. So you should pay attention to problems with the roots and maybe examine them to see what is at, no pun intended, the root of the issue.
Leaf blight on Camellias
Leaf blight is another problem that can eventually progress to the branches and also result in dying branches. You can look at the different leaves on your Camellia and examine them for this problem before you start digging into the roots. You will probably notice an issue with the leaves before it actually affects the stems themselves.
Problems that affect the leaves
Camellias are evergreen plants and this means that they remain green for most of the year, however, from time to time they can occasionally shed old leaves. If during the spring or summer, you see a few leaves turn yellow and fall off the plant, and you know that most of those leaves are older leaves near the base, rest assured that this isn’t really a problem. The rest of the problems really come down to colour. Different colours are indicative of different problems.
Leaves starting to turn yellow
Working your way to the tips of the Camellia, you might notice that the leaves are starting to turn yellow. This symptom can be the result of a multitude of problems and can be a little difficult to identify the problem.
Firstly, it can be symptomatic of root problems. But this is usually only the case if you see yellowing across the entirety of the plant.
Nutrient deficiency causing yellowing leaves between veins
If you see yellowing on the leaves confined to the space between the veins on the leaves themselves, this is indicative of a nutrient deficiency. Camellias are classed as ericaceous plants which means they are acid-loving plants.
If you have the wrong soil in your garden, use the wrong type of compost or accidentally gave them the wrong fertiliser they can have manganese or iron deficiencies and this results in yellowing between the veins on the leaves.
If you have highly alkaline soil it’s recommended that you grow your Camellia in a container so that you can use ericaceous compost to provide the acidic environment that is essential for Camellias. You should also be applying acidic fertilisers in spring after flowering and over summer every few weeks.
Yellow blotches or creamy white blotches caused by yellow mottled virus
Should your leaves present with regular yellow blotches or creamy white blotches that is the result of an infection called Yellow Mottled Virus. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this other than prune out the affected branches. The good news is that it does not affect flowers or plant growth.
Leaves turning brown because of drought, cold winds in winter and leaf blight
If the leaves have turned brown this could be caused by many things, most of which are not too serious. It could be the final stages of root rot which is the problem and could mean you need to improve drainage or re-pot a container-grown plant. It could also be the result of leaf blight fungal infections.
The most likely reason the leaves turn brown is when they experience serious drought, damage from cold wind or frost. Of course, it’s not just winter weather that can have an impact on your plant. To help prevent this, keep the soil moist during dry weather and plant in a sheltered position away from cold winds. If you have a heatwave you might see your large brown blotches on your leaves. These are just burned areas because of the high temperatures and they always recover but the leaves usually drop first.
Leaves getting brown spots
If you notice the browning is happening in spots it’s usually a fungal infection. In the more severe cases, a fungal infection can travel the full length of the branch and result in branch dieback. You want to remove any infected leaves as soon as you see them. This will prevent it from spreading to the branches and other parts of the plant.
Black mound on the leaves caused by sooty mould
Black thick spots visible on the leaves are the result of a sooty mould fungus, which in itself is harmless but is unsightly. This is usually the remnants of sap-sucking aphids that have removed the sap from your leaves and left behind a sugary sticky honeydew. If you notice this you should check the underside of your leaves for small, brown scales.
As mentioned, this is not particularly harmful to the plant and it can be washed away but you will need to be very persistent in washing them away regularly to prevent them from reappearing.
Some leaves have turned white and become swollen
If you see that a few of your leaves have become swollen and turned white they have likely been affected by a disease known as Camelia Gall. This is a fungal disease that is unsightly but not too problematic for the overall health of the plant. You want to pick off the leaves as soon as you notice a problem, ideally, before you see the white spots, which are actually where the fungal spores are produced.
Now that you know the most common problems it’s important to look for the specific part of the plant that is affected and narrow the list down from there so that you can find the most appropriate solution to keep your plants growing healthy and strong.