Yuletide Camellia dropping buds

nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))December 17, 2010


I have a Camellia Yuletide planted on the south side of my house in full sun and I have been able to observe it over two winters. Both times, I noticed a large number of buds forming in late November. Come December though, all these buds start dropping. Last year, I did not get a single flower and it would appear I am on track for a repeat performance this year.

In addition, the leaves are turning a dark brown (pictures attached). I am not sure if the two issues are related - any help would be greatly appreciated.

Picture of the leaves:

Pic of the buds on the ground:

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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Sunburn on the leaves, could have been caused by the sunny weather we had briefly during the cold spell. Being hit by the sun while the ground is frozen can cause significant damage, even to plants that are normally very cold hardy. And, camellias are not really south-facing-wall kind of plants. They'll take full sun in our cool cloudy climate IF it's not reflected off hard surfaces like walls or asphalt AND the plant is well watered through the summer.

Bud drop is often caused by botrytis fungus in cool damp weather, but sunburn and drought could do the same.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 8:51PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Even though that does resemble sunburn, my cold-damaged sasanqua camellias look the same. And buds are dropping like mad, either on their own or at the slightest touch.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 10:42PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

reg_pnw: The camellia has the hottest part of the yard: there is a kitchen directly behind it and a concrete patio not too far away.

If this is sunburn, will the leaves recover by themselves over spring? If I had to transplant it, what is the best time to do it and what kind of exposure would you recommend? The plant is about 4 feet tall and is otherwise healthy.

jean001: Interesting. Did you get any flowers last year? The 2009 winter (Seattle area) was extremely dry (and sunny) too.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 11:01PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

You asked "If this is sunburn, will the leaves recover by themselves over spring?""

Short answer: No.

As for flowers at my place last year, same thing occurred, but with 3 successive freezes which occurred later in the year than this November blast. Then, the more exposed of the two camellias lost some buds with the first two freezes but all the rest were wiped out with the 3rd. This year, that camellia still has some viable buds. Will wait & see what happens next. I'm not really worried though because we bought a different house and will be moving December 27!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 1:45AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Plant got frosted last month.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 12:42PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Most people around here plant camellias under an eave or a big tree, where they get both partial shade and shelter from rain during the bloom season. The burned leaves will not recover but the plant will grow new ones. Move it somewhere it will get about a half day sun but not a west or south facing wall. Pretty much anything but deep shade, or full sun on a south facing wall. You can move it anytime the soil is neither frozen nor waterlogged.

Two exposure problems for these plants: too much reflected hot sun in summer, and exposure to sun and/or dry cold northeast winds in the rare winter freezes, when the ground is frozen. Walls and pavement reflect the sun and increase the heat, which is great for heat loving plants like roses but not for camellias or rhodies. They burn up.

Any kind of stress can make the flower buds drop off. Too wet/too dry, too cold, or rot.

Direct sun on a cold-stressed plant, while the ground is frozen, can cause a lot of damage, as in your photo. This is usually not a problem around here since the soil is generally well soaked by rain, so plants are well hydrated before the ground freezes. But, if you have a plant that is under an eave and doesn't necessarily get a lot of rain on it, the soil might be dry and the plant might not be well hydrated before the ground freezes.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 11:37AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

To avoid sun damage during trying weather susceptible broad-leaved evergreens are actually better off on the north side of the house than the south. Exceptions to this would be southern magnolia, Euonymus japonicus and other hot climate types that may need the warmth of a sunny wall during summer to give the best results on many sites here. Since camellias flower during frosty times of the year and the flowers are liable to be browned if the sun hits them when the petals are frozen planting sites that are shaded during low temperatures are needed. A full south exposure is liable to be quite unsuitable.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 1:10PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

bboy: Thank you very much for the advice and insight, as always. The plant is small so moving it should not be too much of a chore.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 1:27PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

'Yuletide' is thought to belong to Camellia x vernalis - making it half C. japonica - and perhaps therefore more needful of some shade than some other Sasanqua* camellias prevalent at outlets here.

*Most cultivars offered here and grouped under this name are actually hybrids involving other species

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 12:20AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

They've got 'Kanjiro' blooming impressively (under cover) at Sky right now. This selection is said to be a good do-er. Another Sasanqua camellia that is also part of the regular mix offered at garden centers here these days, but has been in addition noticed by yours truly succeeding in local plantings is 'Setsugekka'. I've had to climb a ladder to prune a free-standing specimen of this variety in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. Since it is white it may actually be a true (non-hybrid) Camellia sasanqua cultivar.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sky

    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 11:15PM
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The plant came with directions for shade except early morning sun. Have you checked the soil PH? I am new to camelia planting, no expert, and I have not had any brown leaves yet. My buds are the size of the ones that fell off. I can clearly see the red buds getting more dominant.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 2:52PM
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�Camellia brown leaf or sunscald is the result of too much direct sunlight. Scorched or brown leaves on camellia plants do not usually recover. Avoid planting in direct sun. If necessary, transplant to a shadier location.
�Bud drop occurs when plants receive too much or too little water, insufficient light, or extreme cold temperatures. They may also suffer from nutrient deficiencies or mite problems. Unopened buds typically drop off plant prior to blooming and may turn brown.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 3:04PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

Interesting to see this thread resurrected after a year :)

So just as everyone on this thread mentioned, the leaves scalded by sunburn did drop over the winter and were replaced by new ones over the spring. The buds did all fall without developing to the flower stage. I am waiting to see if anything happens this year again (the buds are again about the same size as in the original photo); I am not super worried even if I get no flowers as the plant seems well established - it seems to survive well with little watering during our summer drought.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 11:21PM
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