Camellia almost dead- 'Scented Snow'

brandyray(Coastal NC/8a)May 21, 2010

I have 4 camellias planted in a row- the other 3 look great- green glossy leaves, the one on the end (evidently more exposed to weather) is almost dead. It has lost most of its leaves and when it had buds, they were brown. I think it was hit by frost, but that was 2 mos. ago and it still looks like a goner. It is the only scented camellia I have ("Scented Snow"). The only thing I can think of is to dig it up and put it in a pot where it will have better soil, regular watering, and hope it recovers so I can plant it again late fall. Anyone have this camellia? Any suggestions? Brandyray

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Hello, Brandyray. Wow! I was thinking that s-o-m-e winter damage could cause some browning of leaves but I wonder if it could cause A-L-L of the damage that you describe. Scented Snow is hardy to Zone 7; was your last winter a Zone 6-kind of a winter?

It is not clear just how bad the shrub is; could you post a picture? At some point, an almost dead plant cannot be saved and maybe a photo can help determine that. It would help to see the shrub in one picture and then top/bottom views of the affected leaves.

I would hesitate to move a stressed plant and would instead try to correct the problem(s) that may have resulted in this.

Some examples of problems... Is this one plant getting too much water in that location? Too much water can cause root rot. You can test the soil with a finger regularly to see if the spot feels wet. I f it regularly feels wet, you may want to determine why and take appropriate action.

Other possibilities... did it dry out during winter? Camellias are dormant in winter but they do need some water... a lesson I learned when my sprinkler system was turned off and kept off during a dry winter. I would also discontinue all forms of fertilizing by July-ish and would not use high-nitrogen fertilizers that could keep the plant in growth-mode just a winter sets in. Some Miracle-gro formulations can be 30% nitrogen. Being in growth-mode as winter starts would make the plant susceptible to winter damage. Also, inspect the shrub for pests like scale and for fungal infections such as camellia dieback.

In the mean time, maintain the soil moist -not wet- as best as you can. If unsure of when to water, insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 4" and water if the finger feels almost dry or dry. Do not water if it feels moist or wet. Maintain 3-4" of mulch up to the drip line ( about 6-12" further away of the area is windy). Do not fertilize while stressed. Liquid seaweed, liquid fish and coffee grounds are weak fertilizers and you could add a little of them. When the plant recovers, you can fertilize with cottonseed meal, etc. I would also prune obviously dead or dried out areas. See the link below for more information.

Good luck, Brandyray.

Here is a link that might be useful: Camellia Care by the American Camellia Society

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 4:29AM
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brandyray(Coastal NC/8a)

Thank you, Luis. I will try to post a pic later in the day or tomorrow (last time I tried that I decided it was fairly complicated).
Becoming too wet is not an issue, but too dry could definitely be a problem. It is all sand here and the camellias are rarely watered.
However, after going out to take some pics, I discovered that in spite of only having a few leaves left, it is putting out new leaves!!! Hurray! Amazing, considering the condition it was in. I do think some or all of its problems were related to its location, but I guess I should wait til fall to move it now. Not sure where I will move it to, either, hmmm...I will have to look up how big it gets again. Thanks! Brandyray

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 10:27AM
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brandyray(Coastal NC/8a)

It's too late now, but I finally found the problem- there is a large ant nest at the base of the plant. I only discovered it after the new leaves curled up and died. So sad...
There are lots and lots of ants here, but I can't remember ever seeing them kill a shrub before. Brandyray

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 9:27PM
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They could have come after the plant started getting stressed and not be the causal agent.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 7:05AM
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