Is there any way to stop a Camellia from blooming?

Karen1SFFebruary 7, 2014

Hi - I moved into my cottage 3.5 years ago and there is a nice Camellia tree, which I love, but it has the blight and so whenever it comes to blooming time, it makes such a mess. The blooms are open 1 day and then turn brown and fall off. Its not attractive at all because there are so many blooms but they are all brown, and my research revealed that there's not much I can do about the blight. The soil has long been contaminated under it, since its been like this each year and I've never cleaned it up, not knowing what was wrong. Truth is, I'm thinking of cutting it down but the tree itself is nice and healthy, if I could just get it not to bloom, I'd like to keep it. Probably impossible, right? Is my only recourse to remove it or deal with a few ugly months of tons of brown blooms all over the tree and ground, which also fall on the walking path and get spread around by my shoes? Also, can bees spread the blight? My neighbors have camellias and I feel like keeping it with the blight will result in their plants getting it eventually. It seems irresponsible somehow to keep it if it would spread. Thanks!

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junco East Georgia zone 8a(zone 8a)

You could give it a light pruning to remove the buds before they open. Remove the trimmings to the trash, not the compost pile.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 1:06AM
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Karen1SF

Yes, an idea, but look how many buds there are - and this is just one spot on the tree. It would be quite a job. But thanks for the suggestion. I'm probably going to just cut it down. I wish there was a treatment for blight. :(

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 11:43AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Sorry to hear you are having this problem because, otherwise, the shrub looks very healthy and I LOVE THOSE FLOWER BUDS. WOW!

Here is some information that the American Camellia Society provides on its website about this fungal disease (or use the link below):

http://www.camellias-acs.org/display.aspx?catid=3,9,300&pageid=1259

You know, if you were in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area (Texas), I would suggest that you plant the shrub outside to make it stop blooming during this time! In winter, we tend to have some extreme temperature fluctuations. For example, on some years, we get a few these up/downs separated from more up/downs by days or a week. But we are going gangbusters this winter. Once we hit the 70s and the next day we bottom out in the 10s or 20s. And then the next day we go back up and the day afterwards we go back down. With only one-two days in between. It would be best if these wild fluctuations happen and then the temps stay up or down for multiple days or a week as they sometimes do but they alternate so much this year that my japonicas decided to stop all flowering (a Debutante) and flower bud growth (all others) this year and may start blooming later this month or in March. Luckily, I have only observed one about to flower bud that got killed. The others buds are just greenish and still hanging on. They look ok so I hope they open. I otherwise get bloomage starting in mid-to-late December or January.

Luis

Here is a link that might be useful: Camellia Flower/Petal Blight Info from the ACS

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:31AM
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vmr423(Zone 8b, SC)

The blight fungus spores only remain viable for 4-5 years. If you cut your plant back without removing it completely, it's very likely- although not guaranteed- to grow back, and by the time it starts blooming again, the spores should be dead and gone.

There was a thread here not too long ago about someone who moved into a house where the previous owner had cut down a camellia and covered the yard in plastic. When the plastic was removed years later and the remnants of the camellia started getting regular waterings, it started to grow back. If you like the camellia, I would cut it back drastically instead of uprooting it.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 3:11PM
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Karen1SF

Interesting idea - any suggestions on how to cut it back? So I leave only the branches without leaves? Also , which time of year would be best? Should I cut it back now that its blooming like crazy? Wait until Spring? I'm by the beach in San Francisco so its not that cold, but foggy in summers. Also its in a prominent spot in my front yard so would be pretty unsightly. But an interesting suggestion and if you are sure the blight would not survive over time, it might be one for me to choose. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 3:46PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I think the post that she is referring to was one where they cut it down to the ground, justa few inches high.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 8:31PM
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vmr423(Zone 8b, SC)

I mentioned that example because it was so drastic an example of what camellias can survive, but I don't think it would need to be cut quite back so drastically. I'm adding a link to that thread for you to read.

Camellias are fairly slow growers so what you'd want to do is cut it back enough that you would stop the blooming process for 5 years. I honestly don't know exactly how much of your plant you'd need to subtract for rebloom in 5 years, but if you're off by a little, you'll either need to wait a bit longer, or perhaps prune again a bit earlier. I am assuming you plan to still be living there 5 years from now...

If you like the shape of your camellia as it is, you could cut back the branches almost to the main trunk. Since this is a less drastic measure than whacking it off to the trunk, you might need to cut it back again if you see flower buds before your 5 years are up. If you don't mind the possibility of pruning again, and want the plant to be somewhat less of an eyesore, you could prune more lightly still.

Some people who want a multi-trunked camellia tree will whack the plant back at the trunk repeatedly to promote the plant's bushing out, rather than just growing straight up. I didn't get an idea of your plant's current shape from the photo, but if you'd like a fuller plant, this strategy could eventually result in a shape you like even better...

Before trying this, I would first recommend having a look around at your neighbor's yards since they have camellias. If they have camellias close by, and are harboring blight, the spores may linger in the vicinity despite your drastic measures. It sounded like yours was the only camellia you'd seen with problems, though, so this may work.

As for timing, I'd say the sooner the better if you're in no danger of a hard freeze that might add insult to injury. Otherwise, I'd wait for spring.

Also, I'd stay away from fertiliziing the plant until you're ready for flowers again. Then I'd try some liquid seaweed/kelp to encourage growth.

Here is a link that might be useful: Older thread about camellia survivor

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 4:51AM
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