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help - plumbers have chopped up roots

Posted by stb95123 CA-Z9 (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 26, 04 at 18:02

How much root chopping can an old an old Camellia take?
I am brand new to gardening and to this house. It has an old Camellia, no idea how old but it is at least a foot higher than the roof and the trunk is thick. I've been trying to figure out why the leaves were turning yellow and it looks like the answer has been a slow water leak that has been going on from before we even moved in. The landlord sent some plumbers out here and before I could say or do anything they dug into the leak and when I got here and looked outside I saw many chunks of roots in the piles of dirt. I saved some of the branches they broke to try doing some cuttings (I don't even know if this is the right time of year for it) but is there anything I can do when they are out of here to help it not stress too much?

Thanks.
Susan


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

Without seeing the amount of the actual damage, all I can suggest is that you mulch the area with several inches (up to 4) of good organic mulch and keep it moistened on top. Don't water a great deal unless your soil drains very well.

Don't fertilize whatever you do... and don't prune, except to cut off the damaged limbs and branches to an outward growing branch or to the main stem. You may receive some advice about 'pruning to compensate for root loss', but that would be faulty advice!!

A good professional would have contacted you or the property owner about the camellia, warning about the damage that bound to happen. There may have been some options.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!


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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

Count me in the pruning camp, Dorie!! ;-) I don't know much about other plants, but at least with camellias, in my opinion if the roots have been too damaged to support the top of the plant, your risk of losing a camellia is very high. That is because they are slow growers, and it takes awhile for the camellia roots to develop and catch up. I guess maybe it depends on the extent of root damage, but those I have seen with severe root loss either suffered greatly or died unless they were heavily pruned back. Then they always come back strong. (I am nervously watching a backhoe on my neighbor's property near one of mine right now, yikes!!) The same reasoning applies to not fertilizing for awhile, because the fertilizer makes the top grow before the roots have caught up, thus stressing the plant. A "pile" of big roots sounds like a lot of damage to me. If it were mine, I would be pruning it as soon as possible. In a couple of years it will look as good as ever.


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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

If there is at least half the root mat still intact I wouldn't worry too much about the big roots - unless you live in a windy area. The big roots are there for anchorage. Feeding is usually accomplished through the fine roots/root hairs. If you garden is prone to strong winds - you may need to support the plant for up to three years while it settles down and re-anchors itself.

In my type of zone 9, where I have good natural water most of the year round, Camellias can put on up to two feet of new growth each year. (Both sasanqua and japonica - autumn and spring flowering.)

Camellias will break from old growth so you could safely reduce the branches and new growth to reduce stress on the remaining root system. You will get few to no flowers next spring, but you will probably get new branches and leaf growth if you follow the recommendation to mulch thickly.

Add some organic fertiliser such as alfalfa pellets, dry sheep manure, or OLD stable manure on top of the mulch so it can percolate over winter and replace the nitrogen being used as the mulch slowly composts.

If the plant is higher than your house rain water gutter - take the opportunity to trim it back gracefully so the flowers don't drop into the gutter and cause blockages.


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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

Thanks, Vetivert8. I missed your note earlier so sorry for not replying. The plant was much higher than the rain gutter, high enough that the roof rats were using it as their main access point. We trimmed it, albeit I am not sure how graceful of a job we did. It was so big and it was hard to know what to do.

Time will tell, I suppose. I got 4 seed pods off this bush so that's something.

Thanks for your help.
Susan


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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

If the plant has exposed bare branches when the weather gets warm and you think sunburn might happen, you can always use a shade cloth for a year until the plant covers itself in leaves again. Hopefully, the leaves will start right away in spring to cover the plant and your camellia is not where sun will burn it.


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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

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RE: help - plumbers have chopped up roots

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 14, 14 at 2:50

Although you can cut the tops of Camellia japonica down to nearly nothing and have it sprout, come back I have found the wiry, not very fibrous roots of this shrub to be very bothered by being cut back - with failure likely when an attempted transplant has been in place for years beforehand.

So if a lot was cut off of yours, there might be trouble.


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