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Camellia brandnewbie

Posted by robcorreia 10 (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 24, 08 at 19:20

Hello fellow gardeners,
I have inherited 2 camellia japonicas with my new house. I know NOTHING about camellias, but I am under the impression that they are struggling. Both look very leggy with few leaves just on top (they are about 3 ft high). Both are in full shade and get lots of water.
Do camellias go dormant or something? I am not sure if this is normal for winter or is there something wrong with them?
Please help, I don't even know what color the flowers are yet!


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RE: Camellia brandnewbie

Congratulations on your new plants, robcorreia. Let us review some general suggestions and see if you can detect problems areas.

To answer your first question, camellias do go dormant but they are evergreen bushes and do not loose leaves this time of the year. They need some sun exposure to bloom well. A well draining location with morning sun only or with dappled sun will do just fine. That means 4 hours or less of sun approximately. When selecting a spot in winter, think where the sun shines during the hot summer months. I like to choose places where the plants start to get shade early... between 10am and 11:30am and receive no afternoon sun.

Camellias should be planted such that the root ball is slightly higher (one inch) than the surrounding soil. Leaving some undisturbed soil in the center of the planting hole helps prevent settling too. The soil should be slightly acidic with a pH Level at or below 7. If the soil becomes too alkaline (pH is above 7) then the leaves may turn slightly yellow except for the leaf veins which remain dark green. Adding chelated iron liquid products like Ferti-lome's Liquid Iron and others (available in most nurseries) corrects this "iron chlorosis" problem.

They also like well draining soils that are moist but not wet. In the summer, you can provide about 1g of water every time the soil feels dry to the touch. Insert a finger down about four inches and add water if it feels dry or almost dry. If you notice you are watering every three days, set the sprinkler to water every three days. Recheck manually if the temperatures fluctuate 10-15 degrees F and stay there. For me, that usually translates watering twice a week in mid summer. In spring and fall, when the temperatures have moderated and rain is more abundant, I might water once a week. During winter, I just water once every two weeks if there has been no rain.

To conserve soil moisture, I add about four inches of acidic mulch and reapply if I notice that it is wearing thin.

These shrubs do not need gobs of fertilizers like roses. Instead, apply about 1/2 cup of cottonseed meal once the danger of freezes has passed (in or after March). Do this once a month through September. You can also use a general purpose slow release fertilizer with a NPK Ratio of 10-10-10. Hint: new plants already contain fertilizer pellets from the nursery so it may not be necessary to fertilize on their first year. Coffee grounds and liquid seaweed can be added anytime between spring and September.

Below is a link to the American Camellia Society's Website. It has plenty of useful information so check it out when you have time.

Does this help you?
Luis

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting and Care of Camellias


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RE: Camellia brandnewbie

Luis, thank you so much for all the advice, I really really appreciate it!
From what you told me, I think they are not getting proper drainage, and I will check for PH. (I think my soil is alkaline because my hydrangeas are flowering pink.) I will try to improve the soil. I had heard coffee grounds could help, and I already started throwing some around the base of the plants....Also, guess I could fertilize right now since I'm in zone 10?
Thanks again!


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RE: Camellia brandnewbie

1. Drainage is important since too much water can cause root rot and its symptoms are similar to those of a plant that does not get enough water.

2. Camellias tolerate some degree of alkalinity so having a pH close to 7 is not necessarily a bad thing. My soil is alkaline and they do well here. But I apply Greenlight Iron and Soil Acidifier in Spring to gardenias, camellias, azaleas and hydrangeas. Then I keep them all mulched with acidic mulch and spread coffee grounds (has little acidity but is high in nitrogen) here and there. So far, it works for me.

You know you have a pH problem when the camellia leaves begin to yellow out AND! AND! AND! the leaf veins remain dark green. If the veins also yellow out then you do not have iron chlorosis. The link below shows a picture of what I am trying to describe. The plant in the photo is not a camellia but River Birch, which can also suffer from iron chlorosis.

A soil test from an Extension Service can give you an accurrate reading of your soil (I recommend one every five years). Similar kits from HD and Lowe's can give you an approximate reading. I have a local nursery currently offering free soil analysis now so check if any nurseries in your area do the same this time of the year.

Your plants' roots have not spread into the surrounding soil yet much so I doubt this will be an issue this early. The acidic soil in the pot where you bought them will keep this under control for some time.

3. I would not fertilize just yet even though you are in a much warmer zone. As I mentioned earlier, your plants already have fertilizer pellets that will last a while and camellias just do not react to fertilizer like roses do. Assume you get about an inch or two of growth per year. What I am trying to say is that they are very slooooow growers, which is why you see high prices on tall camellias.

Because of your zone, it may be difficult to tell exactly when to start fertilizing so here is an idea. In 2009, use your hydrangeas as a way to tell when to fertilize. As soon as the hydrangeas begin to leaf out, fertilize your camellias/hydrangeas and add some soil acidifier at the same time. Fertilize the camellias again 1/2 cup of cottonseed meal once a month and stop fertilizing in September.

Note: hydrangeas should only be fed twice a year (not monthly like camellias) so feed them again in June/July. You can use cottonseed meal or manure on hydrangeas. Stop all fertilizing in August, when they begin to develop flower buds for next spring and when they begin to slow down and eventually go dormant later in the year.

Luis

Here is a link that might be useful: Example of Iron Chlorosis in River Birch by Penn State


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