Camellia Stress after Transplant

Bree-ZeeJuly 6, 2013

We transplanted 4 camellias about two weeks ago. Two look very good-two not so good. We did no research on transplanting. We just dug holes about 1 1/2 times the root balls; place them in our homemade gopher cages; added super soil; watered them and sprayed with miracle grow.

One is on a lattice, and is about 5' high and 6' wide. Before the move it was on a lattice near a wall very protected from weather. We moved it about 5 feet. It is now away from the wall and gets significant amounts of wind. The leaves are still green but kinda droopy. A few have turned brown and I trimmed them off. A few are green but getting crispy.

The second is about 4' x 4'. This plant was moved only a couple of feet so light, soil, and wind conditions are all the same. This plant too is still green, kinda droopy and some leaves are turning brown and getting kinda crispy.

Before the move all the plants were thriving. The lattice plant is about 5 years old. The 4' x 4' is about 15 years old (transplanted from our prior home about 8 years ago). They looked pretty good for a few days after the transplant. They started looking a little droopy so we increased the watering. After doing a bit of research it appears that too much water may be the problem. We live on the coast and the weather is generally cool, windy and damp but we have had a few days in the high 70's recently.

I'm looking for advice to save my once thriving camellias.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Japonicas may suffer if they get too much sun (Sasanquas can handle more sun). Wind can also cause drooping when the leaves loose moisture faster than the plant can absorb moisture through the roots. Protection from the winds can help remedy the dropping problem. Protection from too much sun can help remedy the browning of leaves. Maintaining the soil evenly moist can help a little with both issues. Aim for 4 hours of sun or less.

Summer temperatures, summer winds and lack of Spring-like moisture plus transplant shock (an affected root system) are making the shrubs react this way. In Z10, I would have transplanted them during the winter months but I understand that this is something one cannot schedule sometimes.

If they get a lot more than 4 hours of sun, you may need to transplant them again. Temporarily, you can help[ by keeping the soil moist as evenly as possible; block the sun with 35% shade cloth or some other object; protect from the winds with some object. And mulch, mulch, mulch. About 3-4" of mulch. Because the area is windy, I would also maintain about 6" of mulch past the drip line.

Stressed plant should not be fertilized so I would not fertilize until next year. It would be ok to amend however, if you have to tweak the soil pH, etc.

Make sure the plant remains about 1" higher than the surrounding soil. You may also want to use a stake in case there are sudden strong winds.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 11:32PM
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idixierose(z8b Coastal SC)

I feel your pain. I totally dread having to move a camellia.

Luis gave you good advice. When I move a camellia, I lavish it with TLC -- monitor the soil moisture every day. Keep the moisture even and moderate.

Also, make sure the new location has good drainage.

A plant that's been moved doesn't need fertilizer. Instead, I water it with plant-friendly tonics such as liquid seaweed, SuperThrive and Roots. I sprinkle SeaHume (a seaweed and humate product) and Mykos (a microrhyzii product) in the planting hole and fill dirt. Then I pray to the garden gods.

If you have time to plan ahead, about 3 to 6 months before you plan to move a camellia, take a shovel and cut a circle in the soil around the drip line of the the bush. This is a form of root pruning that encourages a compact root ball and prepares the plant for being relocated.

I've moved small ones manually, with a shovel, and I've moved monsters with a tree spade. Either way, I still cringe at the thought of having to move a camellia.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 4:29PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I don't think that you could have chosen a worse time of year to transplant....I would be amazed if there weren't some wilting.

Just to add to the good advice given by the others, I'll suggest that NEXT TIME you dig the holes no less than three times as wide as the root ball and no deeper than is needed for the plant to sit a little above grade. And you should not amend nor 'improve 'the backfill.

It's been proven that plant roots establish much faster and much farther in plain native soil than any that has been altered. Roots may decide to never leave that planting hole, circling round and round. Also, water may be sucked up into this foreign medium OR become hydrophobic.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 4:11PM
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