Camellias in decline

bubba62March 23, 2007

Several of my Japonica varieties, though they have buds and/or flowers, are looking as if they are not in good health. Many twigs (not entire branches) produced no leaf growth last summer and now appear dead, but the remaining twigs do have new leaf and flower buds. The overall effect is of a very sparsely foliaged plant with an airy, open structure (a great pruning goal, if it had been intentional). These plants tend to be in more shade than some of the others, but that's the only variable I can find. Perhaps the plants are just refusing to produce more leaf growth than the available light can support?

I'm a fairly experienced grower, but this has me scratching my head. It's not winter damage (lots of flower and bud damage this year due to early bloom during our "January thaw"), since this condition began to appear during the last growing season. I see no evidence of tea scale (which has been a problem in other years) or phytophthera (sp?) root issues (another problem given my drainage problems). Any thoughts?

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Are you saying that you have drainage issues in this planting site?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 3:24PM
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It's heavy clay, which was amended (nearly replaced) when the plants went in, about 12 years ago, but it may be that the roots have reached the limits of the improved soil and are dead-ending as they attempt to invade the clay. If that's the case, I'm not sure how to accomplish rejuvenation of these shrubs (really small trees at this point). However, other camellias planted at the same time, by the same method, are not showing the defoliation, etc. I've just installed French drains on that end of the house, too, so perhaps that will help some.

I'm thinking the real culprit is a gigantic, overgrown photinia which is blocking out the sun (albeit providing privacy) on that end of the yard. It doesn't help that all of the affected camellias are planted against the north wall of the house, another impenetrable shade barrier. I'm learning that shade is a very relative thing, even here in the hot, humid upper South.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 5:22AM
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