sob sob.. Somethings wrong with my plant! sob..

starfruit_1February 10, 2007

Hiii i am completely new to growing comellias

when i first boght it there were lots flower buds but now they're all drying up (the outs side layers are peeling off) and falling off.

and its leaves are turning a dull green and falling off.

Also the new shoots of leaves are drying up too!! you now there are lots of layers wrapped around the new shoot ya? theyre drying up and fall off tooo.

What shoud i do?

should i trim off the tops of my plant (but its not very big though)?


MAny thanksssss

much love

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, starfruit_1. As long as you meet certain plant requirements, camellias should not have the problems that you describe. What you need to do next is identify which plant requirements are not being met and check my section on pests. See which ones apply to your case in Hong Kong. I apologize if this answer is too long but I was trying to cover all the possible causes. While you did not state so, I assumed you planted the camellia outside and that the variety is good for planting in your zone in Hong Kong.

Planting: camellias like to be planted near the top of the soil. Make sure that yours is planted slightly above ground level. Also make sure that the location you chose has no drainage issues.

Lighting requirements: camellias like dappled sun or morning sun with afternoon shade. Here in Texas, I choose locations that are shaded starting at 11am because of the strong summer sun.

Too much sun causes some leaves to turn a dull green, a mustard-like green or bronze color. But many times the problem is temporary. For example, plants recently moved from a nursery (where they get lots of shade) to ones backyard (where they get more sun than at nursery) can suffer from sunburn or bronzing of the leaves temporarily.... until the plant adjusts on its own.

Another example... during the winter, this also occurs when a tree that normally shades the plant looses its leaves and exposes the plant to more sun than before. As soon as the tree leafs out in the spring, this problem corrects itself.

What to do? From your comments, your description sounded as if you got this plant recently so the problem may be temporary. Do determine if your current location provides morning only sun or dappled sun. If you decide it is getting too much sun, consider moving it to a shadier location.

Soil requirements: camellias like acidic soil, soil whose Ph level is below 7. A reading of 7 is considered neutral while a reading higher than 7 is considered alkaline. Nurseries here in the US sell a kit to give an approximate reading of soil Ph. See if you can get a similar kit locally in Hong Kong. If your plant is starting to be affected by alkaline soil, the glossy green color may start changing as you describe, but eventually it will leave the leaf veins green against a yellowish/green leaf backdrop. If the veins and the rest of the leaf stay the same color, you probably do not have a problem with alkaline soil.

The leaf color change is caused by the plantÂs inability to absorb iron from the soil, a condition thus called Iron Chlorosis. Camellias which suffer from iron chlorosis have leaves whose color changes from the common camellia glossy green, to a dull green, a bronze/yellow green and mostly yellow green. The veins remain green through most of this change. This also happens in other acid-loving plants like gardenias and hydrangeas.

To correct iron chlorosis, add an iron & soil acidifier into the soil once or twice a year. I use a product called Green Light Iron And Soil Acidifier. Should you have this problem, see what is available there in Hong Kong.

Water requirements: camellias like the soil to be regularly moist to a depth of 18 inches (46 cm). The soil should never be dry, soggy or wet for extended periods of time.

If they do not get enough water, the topmost leaves can brown out first. If they get too much water, the bottom leaves will brown out first. You will notice that the tip of the leaves browns out first until the whole leaf is browsed out. This condition is called Tip Die Back.

If a whole branch browns out and dies, you may have Branch Die Back. Plants with this problem usually receive too much water and/or fertilizer. Dead or dying branches should be pruned and discarded; water less or correct any drainage problems; feed only three times a year.

If the plants get too much water, root rot -a fungal disease- can also cause leaves to brown out and can also make the whole plant to eventually die.

The solution to most of these watering issues? If you have water drainage issue in your garden that accumulates water where the camellia is, take some corrective action or transplant the camellia elsewhere. Also, check the soil moisture more often or use an automatic sprinkler system. To manually check, insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) and see if it feels wet, moist or dry. Then take appropriate action. Maintain lots of acidic mulch (2-4 inches or 5-10 cm) and keep the soil moist as much as possible.

During the winter time, if the soil does not freeze, it is important to also provide water to camellias. Again, test the amount off moisture in the soil with a finger and decide if it needs more or less.

Fertilizer: To keep camellias well fed, the American Camellia Society recommends three feeding per year. I apply a cup of cottonseed meal (organic food) around the base of the plant in March, June and September. Some mineral deficiencies will result in yellowing of leaves. I already mentioned elevated alkaline Ph Levels. A soil analysis is the only way to detect other mineral deficiencies. This would be one of the last things I would consider.

Pests: camellia pests tend to be visible on the underside of leaves. If you notice evidence of pests (look under the leaves, in the flower buds, in the flowers themselves and in the stems), take samples in sealed plastic bags to your local plant nurseries in Hong Kong for analysis and then apply the recommended controls.

Examples of some common pests in the U.S. are camellia scale, camellia bud mite and spider ants. The camellia bud mite will make the bud scales brown out and it will infect the buds and the flowers. Check to see if you see any pests on all parts of the plant (open the buds and flowers).... Spraying with a miticide will correct a bud mite infestation.

Weather: sudden changes in weather, very cold, very wet or very dry conditions can cause camellia buds to brown out too. This is a very common problem during the plant's first year in one's garden and very likely what happened to you. It happens because the plant is only used to the optimal conditions found in the nurseries. When you suddendly plant them outside in your backyard, the plant is not yet used to your normal weather and responds by -unfortunately- dropping the buds. But this should only happen on the first year or in very cold years.

For example, I lost all buds this year due to a malfunction in my automatic sprinkler system that caused very dry conditions. Some varieties that I have planted dropped their buds on their first year and others did not. If you do not have any pest problems then do not worry much about this and let the plant develop a good set of roots in its first year instead.

Well, that is all have. See what applies to your case and take appropriate action. Camellia growing should be fairly easy and just require morning sun, moist soil, food three times a year and hardly any pruning. I hope this helps you, starfruit_1,

    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 2:18AM
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Dear Luis
Hello and thankyou for the detailed info. i am sorry for this late reply because there was something wrong with my internet.
Actually my camellia is planted indoors in a pot.
i have put it on the porch, but i'm not sure if its too much sunlight.
Should i keep it at an area where there is light or actual sunlight?
would you know why the leaves are turning olive green?
also is there anything i can do about the new shoots drying up?


    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 1:31AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, starfruit_1. Olive green Leaves: Camellias should be exposed to Part Shade (morning sun) or dappled sun. Since 6 hours of direct sun is considered Full Sun, I would make sure that the plant gets 4 hours of direct morning sun or slightly less. If you cannot find such a location, try one that has no direct light but has bright indirect light. Light reflected from a cement wall or driveway towards the plant would work as long as the plant is exposed to less than 6 hours of reflected sunlight. See my section on light requirements for other possibilities. In any case, also check the Ph of the potted soil to make sure it is not too alkaline.

Dried leaves: Determine if there is a moisture problem that could be drying the leaves. As I stated before, do this by inserting a finger into the soil and determine if the soil feels dry, moist or wet. Look for indications of pests in the flowers and buds too. Finally, make sure that the pot is not located in a windy area as wind will dry up the soil in the pot very quickly.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 10:34PM
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Dear Luis
the soil is wet on the surface (as soon as i touch it)
can too wet soil cause the leaves to dry?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 1:53AM
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longriver(SF Bay Area)

Excellent discussion and advice. Now it is possible to lead to the root of the problem as pointed by luis. Our Camellia Society always sdvises less water may not kill a plant. The whole plant would look dehyrated and thirsty. A couple dose of deep watering will recover the plant. Yet if prolonged wet root is the cause, then the plant shall have root rot problem with prolonged sick symptom. Without actual seeing the situation, it is still hard to figure out.
My question to you: Is location of the planting at lower or bottom ground area? Is it close to gutter drain direction? Get a small tool to dip the closeby area. You should find it out.
I was at Sichuan Province where the ground water was very saturated. Any additional rain would cause soggy soil. They have to raise the ground for planting camellias as attached picture. You have to do a correction before the weather getting too hot Please check it with your local nursery

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 1:29PM
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