Old Camellia turning yellow after transplant

Sil72March 11, 2013

Hi guys,
I'm new to this forum and i really appreciate your advice for my beloved Camellia Japonica.
We recently moved into a new home and needed to extend the property. Sadly, a 35 year old Camellia was on the wrong spot so needed to be moved. I have been reading a lot before the transplant to gain as much knowledge as possible but still i have few doubts that she will survive.
This is a nearly 2.5mt (approx.7-8 feet)height tree that used to be really healthy up until 4 weeks ago when we had to move it few meter down in the back garden on a raised bed area.

I sensibly pruned it the day before the transplant keeping the shape and without cutting the top main branch only to just reduce the bulk of it as well as the numbers of buds to help the root system to pick up quicker.

During transplant the main root system was not too much damaged i believe as we watered the plant abundantly during the day and night. However, during transplant the tap root snapped, the ditch was the right size of the root ball and is currently sitting i believe correctly 2 inches above ground.
I did put most of her original soil in the ditch mixed with mature mulch i had available in my garden as well as water.
We kept the same orientation as in the old spot and still in north facing position. Compared as before now she gets only a little more direct sun light for few hours in the afternoon. Bear in mind in UK there isn't such strong sunshine during winter/spring months.

I watered it 2 times a week on slow water pressure for about 45min each.

After 1 week of transplant i added some Bone Meal,so they call it here, at the foot of the trunk to help the root system to recover and start growing again. I examined the roots and noticed they were looking a bit burned I must admit. So, i decided to add 2 inches of fine pine bark mulch to help balance the acidity/moist of the soil, but still no sign of improvement till now after 4 weeks.

Basically, I've got left only 1 quarter of the plant looking healthily green with few flower buds still looking strong and the rest of it is all yellowish looking with few buds too which don't seem to have turned yellow a lot.

I'm very worried that i'm going to loose my beautiful tree.
Any advice will be extremely appreciated.


p.s. I can post some pictures if required.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, Silvia. I would routinely monitor to see if the symptoms persist or not. A smaller and more limited root system could be making it difficult for the plant to absorb the same amount of minerals needed to support the growth above ground. Here are a few of the basics that I would check:

* make the soil as evenly moist as possible. maintain 3-4 inches of mulch up to the drip line and test the soil to make sure it is not wet. Water if the soil is almost dry or dry to the touch to a depth of 4"

* the soil should be kept acidic (they will tolerate lightly alkaline soil too); test it with a soil pH kit available at many plant nurseries.

* the soil should not be heavily fertilized as this can burn some roots; test the soil for high/low nitrogen/phosphorus/pottasium levels using a kit available at many plant nurseries.

* check for salt built up in the soil too; it can cause a brownish-yellow leaf discoloration

* make sure the plant leaves are not getting too much sun. If moved from an area where the leaves got little sun to one with more sun exposure, the leaves may temporarily react to the sunlight. If the exposure is not high, the leaves should adjust after a while.

* make sure the plant has not sunk below the surrounding soil.

* make sure there are few air pockets

* the plant is stressed so try not to over-fertilize.

* keep an eye for signs of camellia cankers and die back, a fungal disease (see the link below)


    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 1:14AM
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Thank you very much Luis,

I noticed since i wrote last time that the yellow leaves are mainly concentrated to one side of the plant and noticing the sun exposure, i think the plant is mainly reacting to the light compared to the opposite side which is more shaded is still brilliantly green and it hasnt changed at all. In this time of the year is still cold and rainy with few sunny spells which are not so strong. Do you think i still have to shade the tree and how?

I will definetly check the soil though to have my peace of mind.
Would the acidity of the mulch added conpensate or correct the amount of alcalines jn the soil?

Regarding the drip line, no she still well above it.

There are very few buds that havent changes at all. Still strong with no signs of weakness or illness just yet :(.
I doubt i will see any of those blooming this year if the camellia survives this terrible shock.

Look forward to your advice

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 3:45AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

You probably just need to monitor it often to see if it gets acclimated to its new location. If the leaf damage appears to get much worse, theeeeen I would consider moving it again.

I once used a tempoary shade cloth made of cardboard and some sticks on a hydrangea. The Crape Myrtle that shaded it lost some limbs due to a hail storm in the middle of the summer and the hydrangea started receiving too much sun; a cloth alternative: buy a 35% shade cloth which some people then hang from above in all kinds of methods. Hard to use in wide open places though.

I hope you get at least few blooms. My camellias are way confused this year due to the mild winter we had and instead of blooming in Dec-Jan, they started blooming in the last 3-4 weeks; Debutante, a pink anemone form camellia, just started blooming less than a week ago! The poor thing had irrigation problems last year and almost died before I noticed the problem.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:26AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Acidic mulch (pine bark, pine needles, etc) will help acidify the top most few inches of the soil and will not reach or acidify the soil where most of the larger roots are. Mulch therefore is more useful with azaleas and rhododendrons because those plants have most of their tiny fibruous roots on the top 4" of the soil.

The soil pH kit can help you determine if the soil pH needs tweaking. Once you determine that the soil is too alkaline, get some amendments from most plant nurseries: garden Sulphur, iron sulfate, green sand or liquid iron-chelated compounds. The liquids produce faster results but have to be applied more often; one still has to wait a month or more to correct the iron defficiency (use the soil pH kit again) so do not expect a quick fix from these amendments. Tip: if the leaves are turning yellowish and the leaf veins remnain dark green then apply these amendments; otherwise save the money for another day. In my alkaline region of Texas, I habitually add some amendments in Spring and optionally again in the summer months or in the Fall.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:41AM
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In your first post you explained your watering, and my first idea was, oh! that is too much water in our current season. So, as old trees are generally spoken difficult to transplant, in your case I would have probably waited for doing this later, on the end of April, for example.
Then I would have proceed to do cuttings from this camellia in order to save it for sure.
And third, the bone meal wasn't given at the right time. Camellias are killed when they receive too much feed and this at the wrong time.

Now, your situation is what it is, in your case I would sacrify all buds for this year, and, instead of watering the roots, I would do a regular misting on the leaves only, so that the camellia is in a long fog time, you understand ? I saw this once in Italy where they grow large camellia trees in containers.

Do you have the name of your camellia? And yes, photos would be helpful, too.
I hope your camellia will do better with the coming spring.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:05AM
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Hi Tamararly,
Thank for your suggestions.
I just want to let you know that i just spotted lots of new roots popping out of the mulch blancket and.... 1 bud turning PINK!
The yellow leaves have now stabilised in the sense that the situation hasnt worsened since my last post.
I have also noted lots of new tiny leaves growing so i feel a lot more relieved and so so so happy!!
I have bought the soil tester though and i will run a test for my peace of mind.
Regarding the watering i've stopped it since my last post simply because the rain we got was more than enough and in addition to this we've had very unusually low temperature till now.
Do you think my camellia survived after all?
Ive been trying unsuccessfully to upload some pictures. I will give it another go then :).


    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 12:39PM
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Hi Sil72,

I am very happy for you that the troubles seem to lessen now, and yes, I think he is over his difficulties and will survive because of the lots of tiny new leaves.
When he is in flower, please, take pictures and if you can, give us the name of this one.
Good luck! :)


    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 4:24AM
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Hi all,

Im back again here to this really helpful forum reporting my beloved camellia japonica's latest "undevelopments".

As i've noticed in the months back signs of new growth with even few shy buds blooming i've been closely monitoring the plant and noticed recently that somehow it has stopped growing. The leaves are gradually all turning yellow and few of them have brown spots on it.

I tested the soil and it does need urgently to be corrected as it currently stand at 7pH.

I also uncovered a bit of the root ball and i could see that the roots are suffering.

I gently scratched the surface of the branches and trunk and it does appear is still alive.

My questions are:
1- Can i correct the soil now and drastically prune it to see if i could save it? I will need advice on the best way to correct the soil, how much and when.
2- Can i loose up a bit the soil surrounding the rootball to allow more air to go through?
3- Is it possible that it's got attacked by fungal disease or something similar? Although the leaves with brown spots are really really few in compare with the majority.

I hope the picture helps a bit.
Don't know how to upload more pictures at the same time.

Thanks very much for your help and support.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 6:36AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

1. You can amend the soil pH at any time per label directions. Iron sulfate or garden sulphur can be used to acidify soil that makes the leaves look chlorotic (the leaf above does not look chlorotic). You can also use iron chelated liquids; these fix iron chlorosis faster.

2. "I also uncovered a bit of the root ball and i could see that the roots are suffering." I am not sure what to say. I did not understand what you meant by roots are suffering or why they are suffering.

3. Trying to diagnose yellow leaves now can be tricky because in May and June camellias will abort old leaves in that way. A leaf like that (or a small number like that) would not bother me.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 4:17PM
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