General gardening topics

Camellia problems – Non-flowering, bud drop, root problems and leaf problems

Last updated on January 21st, 2020

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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 the wrong growing conditions as is so often the case but 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 lack of them. Usually, the flower buds develop but then fall off instead of blooming. 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 morning sun that can result in bud drop. 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. 

Why is my Camellia not flowering. The most common reasons are lack of water when buds are forming, over feeding, and morning frost combined with morning sun.

Not enough sun

It could also be the result of the inadequate sun if you 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.

You can read our detailed guide on why your camellias may not be flowering or suffering from bud drop in this guide by clicking here

Problems with the Roots

Honey fungus or Phytophthora root

Starting at the bottom of the plant, if you dig around at the roots and finds that they are soft and brown it is indicative of root decay. This can be caused by a root disease the most common of which include honey fungus or Phytophthora root rot 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 but it also affects plants you grow in the ground in wet soils. If you have container-grown plants it is in your best interest to repot them in a timely fashion before they become to root bound but be careful not to pot them into a pot that is too large as 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 frost. In some parts of the Uk ware, we get harsh 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.

You can read our guide on protecting plants overwinter here which also explains how to protect potted plants

Vine weevil grubs eating the roots

One last reason you may have dropping leaves is because of vine weevil beetles and their grubs, this is more of a problem for plants that are grown in pots. Although adult vine weevil eats the leaves, usually around the edge of the leaves, it is the baby grubs that live in the soil and look similar to a maggot that causes the most damage as they eat the roots. Eventually, causing enough damage that the root system cannot support the plant and the first sign is usually the leaves start to droop. You can buy pesticides especially for vine weevil and it can be applied as a drench to the soil.

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 attacks. 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 dench called Provado Vine Weevil Killer which you mix and pour over the roots whilst still in the pot which you can buy from by clicking here

Provado Vine Weevil Killer2 750ml

Dieing 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 the, no pun intended 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.

Camellias with problems that effect there leaves

Camellias are evergreen plants which means that they were mean green most of the year but 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 on camellias 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 can be more 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 classes 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 fertilizer they can have manganese or iron deficiencies which 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 an acidic environment that is essential for camellias. You should also be applying acidic fertilizers in spring after flowering and over summer every few weeks.

You can learn more about ericaceous compost in this guide

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 effected branches. The good news is that it does not affect flowers or plant growth

Leaves turning brown on camellias 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 to serous. It could be the final stages of root rot which are a problem and could mean you need to improve drainage or repot a container-grown plant, it could also be the result of leaf blight fungal infections.

The most likely reason for the leaves can 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 high temperature and they always recover but the leaves usually drop first.

Leaves on camellias getting brown spots

If you notice the browning it’s happening in spots it’s usually a fungal infection and in the more severe cases that fungal infection can travel the length of the branch and result in branch dieback. You want to remove any inspected 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 camellias 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 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 noticed 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 adamant about washing it away regularly to prevent it from reappearing. 

Some leaves on camellias 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 which is unsightly but not problematic to 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 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.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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