(February) I have a Camellia japonica and a Camellia sasanqua that I have had for many, many years. For the past two years the leaves get white spots on the bottom that come through and get powdery, turn brown and the leaves fall off. They do not bloom any longer. Even the new leaves get the spots. Will you please tell me what to do.
It could be one of two things -- either a heavy scale insect infestation or a bad case of powdery or downy mildew. I would take a sample in to your local county extension office and let them send it to the disease diagnostic center for evaluation. Hopefully, once it is properly diagnosed, you can get the problem under control and get back to camellia blooms.
(February) I have two very large Camellia bushes in my yard. They always bud out just as the frost begins. The frost destroys the blooms. Is there any solution to this problem? Can there be some thing done to make them bloom earlier?
There are two basic types of camellias that are grown in Arkansas. The Camellia sasanqua typically blooms from mid to late fall through early winter. Mine started a bit late in November, and still had blooms on it when we had the 10 degree days-which sufficiently finished it off. The Camellia japonica's are those that begin bloom in usually February through March. Depending on the type of winter we have, they can begin to show color or bloom, and a late frost can get them. For that reason it is best to plant them where they get morning sun and afternoon shade. Afternoon sun plants actually go through more fluctuations in temperature and can be more susceptible to winter damage. Other than proper placement, and choosing the best variety for your situation, there really isn't much you can do to prevent them from getting started too early. Covering on really cold days gives you a minimal amount of protection.
(April) I have a problem with my 18 year old camellia tree. Usually it has red blossoms in the spring. This year it looks sick and the few blossoms are far from their normal beauty. There is a white covering on the leaves which is probably some sort of disease. I would appreciate any suggestion you have for treating this problem.
I do not think you have a disease but an insect problem. I have seen an abundance of scale this year on everything from hollies to camellias. Scale insects can vary in size from a half inch to the size of a pinhead. On camellias, the most common scale is called tea scale. These insects attach themselves to the leaves and suck the sap out. As they multiply, it can severely impact the plant. Each female deposits from 10 to 15 eggs under the scale shell. They hatch in 7 to 21 days, depending on the weather. The flat, yellow crawlers migrate to the newer growth on the plant and, in 2 or 3 days, attach themselves. At first they secrete thin, white coverings, but shortly afterward they produce great quantities of white threads. As the population builds up, the undersides of the leaves may be covered with this cottony secretion. From 41 to 65 days after hatching, female scales begin to lay eggs. The life cycle is usually completed in 60 to 70 days. The hatching of tea scale nymphs occurs throughout the year, although it is less frequent in cold than in warm weather. If left unchecked, they can build up quite quickly. Use a systemic insecticide such as Di-syston, Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide, or try spraying with Orthene. Contact sprays are difficult to control these insects since we have such a heavy network of leaves, and the insects do most of their feeding on the underside of leaves.
(May) Can I still prune my camellias? If I can prune them, will they still produce as many blooms as before?
Yes, you can still prune your camellia, but try to do so before the weather gets hot and dry. I like to have all spring blooming plants pruned, no later than June 30 -- if not before. The sooner you prune, the sooner the plants will recover, and new growth is always slower when the weather gets hot. They set their flower buds in late summer through early fall, so you should still set flowers. Keep in mind, if you have a much smaller bush, there won't be quite as many flowers as before. Do fertilize after pruning, and keep up with summertime watering.
(May) We have a large plant that I have been told is a hardy camellia. It has shiny dark green leaves and white flowers in late fall. A lot of the leaves are turning pea green on top and white underneath and becoming real thick. What is taking place? and what do we need to do.
It sounds like your camellia is suffering from camellia leaf gall. It looks much worse than it actually is. The leaves appear to have been covered with candle wax--they get very waxy and thick. The bright green color will turn to a whitish and then brown. Simply snap off the leaves that are affected and dispose of them. The problem should stop on its own with warm weather. If your plants need pruning, you can also prune the tissue off. No sprays are necessary. We see it on azaleas and camellias during cool wet spring weather.
(August) I have some small camellia cuttings, two or three leaves each, that I have rooted. Do I need to set them out in my flower garden at this time? I don't know if they are likely to be able to safely establish themselves outdoors before fall. The present heat is another issue, since I rooted them indoors. Any advice would be appreciated. I live in Warren.
You have two options. Since you rooted them indoors, you may want to keep them indoors until spring. Normally they aren't as happy inside as they are outdoors, but yours seem to have acclimated. Plant them as soon as possible after chances of frost have passed next spring. Another option is to let things cool off a bit, then plant them in a protected spot outdoors. If they have been inside in an air-conditioned environment, this intense heat, coupled with the dry conditions could be hard on young seedlings. Try to have them outside no later than mid September to allow them time to establish before it gets cold. Mulch them lightly until a frost then add a little extra mulch. Camellias should be quite hardy in your part of the state, but you would need to give them enough time outdoors to get acclimated before cool weather hits.
(August) We prepared a flower bed in April this year with potting soil and manure fertilizer and planted two camellia and two peony plants. They were all approximately the same size. The camellias have grown beautifully, tall and shiny leaves with new buds. My peonies have sat and "sulked", leaves turning brown and drying up - absolutely no new growth. These plants are on the north side of our house with mostly shade but afternoon sun. We have tried to keep the plants watered, but not over watered and have used Miracle Grow fertilizer through the spring and early summer. I need to revitalize my peonies - they are my favorite flower. Please help me know what I can do to save these plants or how to plant them properly if I have to buy new ones next season.
Peonies do best in full sun, a minimum of 6 to 8 hours is a must. If they are in too much shade, they would have nice foliage, but few blooms. Shade, however, should not cause them to die or even decline. Check the drainage where they are planted. It is not unusual to have a weaker than normal first year while the plants are getting a root system established, but the foliage should have stayed green at least throughout the growing season. Because peonies start growing so early in the season, it is not unusual for them to decline earlier than other perennials, so if the browning of the foliage and the decline has recently started, that may be the normal progression. I don't think you will have much of a chance to revitalize them this late in the year, but you might consider moving them this fall to a sunnier location, and then judge their growth habit next season. If problems still occur early in the season, then we need to look further.
(August) We have two Camellia bushes that have grown so large that all other bushes can hardly be seen. We are also facing the same problem with our Gardenia bushes taking over in another front yard garden. How far back cane we prune these plants without harming their growth? When should we prune?
It is too late to prune camellias now. They bloom in the fall or spring from flowers set this fall. The time to prune them would be in the spring after winter weather has passed, and after blooming if they are spring bloomers. (If they bloom in the fall, still wait until spring to prune). For your gardenia, you still have time to do light pruning now. They bloom in the summer, but turn around and set flowers in the fall. Don't do severe pruning now, wait and do that immediately following flowering next summer. Both plants can be pruned back by one third or more, but do it at the proper time to allow for recovery and ample flowers.
(October) I have two camellia bushes that I would like to move. They were planted by the sidewalk, and are now too big for the bed. They bloom in October and November. There are azalea bushes on either side of them both. How and when can I transplant them, and will this harm the azalea roots?
I would hold off until spring to move the camellias. Enjoy their blooms this fall and winter and then wait until spring to prune as needed and transplant. As close as they are planted with the azaleas, I am certain the roots are intertwined. Make clean cuts when digging up the root balls, and replant as soon as possible, filling in the resulting holes with soil and mulch to protect the azalea roots. Water and mulch and the plants should recover -- both the camellias and azaleas.
(October) Do generously flowering Encore azaleas and bud setting camellias need fertilizer now?
Do not fertilize any more this fall. Even though the Encore azaleas are blooming now, we don't want to encourage tender new vegetative growth this late in the season. The new growth would be more susceptible to winter damage. For the camellias, it is also too late to fertilize, and for the most part their flower buds are all set, simply waiting to bloom. For the Encores, fertilize in the spring after spring bloom. I would also recommend a light pruning then as well. It seems to encourage better foliage growth, and thus more blooms in the fall. You may want to fertilize the Encores twice a season -- once after spring bloom and again six to eight weeks later. Most camellias only need one application of fertilizer per year -- in the spring when new growth begins.
(October) I bought two camellia plants, planted them as directed, approximately six feet apart. One is dark green, setting blooms, and thriving. The other is losing leaves, turning yellow, and (here's the kicker) has small white blobs on the stems and leaves. These blobs feel a bit like popped pop corn but definitely have something living inside them. When I squished one, it made a crunch sound and a red liquid oozed out. Really quite "Alien" if you ask me. So that's why I'm asking you. What do you think?
It sounds like scale insects to me. The most common scale insect we have on camellias is the tea scale -- but they are small and look almost like grains of salt coating the stems and leaves. Since yours are larger, I would guess probably oyster scale, which has a white waxy feel to it, and can grow quite large. Mealy bugs are soft bodied scales that have a white cottony growth covering them. Scale insects suck the sap out of the plants and with a heavy enough build up, can cause damage, even death over time. Systemic insecticides such as Di-syston and Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide are quite effective but take time. Dormant oils can be used to smother out the insects, but thorough applications are needed on all parts of the plant -- upper and lower surfaces of leaves, stems, etc. Do keep in mind that once the insects have died, they will still be present on the leaves, but you should see new growth that is healthy and the plants should appear more thrifty. Also, if the plants were newly purchased, you might also contact the nursery or garden center and see about an exchange.
(December) I have a number of Sasanqua Camellias in my yard and I do not know the proper time to fertilize them. Can you help?
Even though the Camellia sasanqua blooms in the fall, we treat it much like an azalea. If needed, prune in the spring after the chance of frost has passed. Fertilize then as well.
(December) I have a camellia (sasanqua) that was in a hanging basket. I didn't know they could be container grown, and am wondering about proper care. I have put it in a pot. Wondering when to prune it, and if it will do ok inside during the summer.
I have never seen a camellia in a hanging basket, and would be amazed if they would do well in such limited soil. Camellias would not be a great container garden choice, since they like ample moisture and they can be sensitive to winter cold. Both of these conditions would be challenged in a pot. I would prefer to have it planted in the ground where it gets good morning sunlight and afternoon shade. Sasanqua camellias bloom in the fall or early winter, and Camellia japonica's bloom in late winter to early spring. If any pruning is needed, it would be best done in the spring after all blooming is done and all winter weather is past. I would not consider them as a houseplant, since they would not set many flower buds indoors.
I have a bi-colored camellia, white with red stripes. It has bloomed for several years, but this year it apparently put on seed pods. They are about the size of English walnuts. I left some on for the fun of it. Those I brought in have dried and popped open. They are dark brown. I want to plant them to see what happens, but I don’t know the proper procedure, or if you can. Please discuss this seed.
Camellias will grow from seed, but keep in mind that it takes four to seven years to flower, when grown from seed. The seeds should be harvested in the fall as they turn reddish-brown in color and begin to split. The seed should not be allowed to dry out before planting. Germination will be hastened if you pour boiling water over the seeds and allow them to remain in the cooling water for 24 hours before planting. Plant them in soil high in organic matter. Keep them moist and wait for them to germinate.
A friend has a Camellia japonica near her home that stands about ten feet tall. Recently, it was covered with four inch pink blooms that stood out in the drab surroundings of winter. My wife and I would love to have such an ornamental shrub in our yard. Can you transplant a "cutting" from such a plant, and are there any special soil preparations that should be done to ensure the area we provide is acid and rich in organic matter?
Normally you root a cutting, which is a cut section of the plant with no roots. If you have suckers or sprouts at the base of the plant which have roots, they can be transplanted now with no problem. If you want to take cuttings, camellias root easily. Normally the best time to take cuttings on camellias is midsummer, from the spring flush of growth after the wood has matured somewhat. It will change from green to light brown in color. Take a tip cutting, three to six inches in length. Dip it in a rooting hormone and then put the cuttings in a container with moist peat moss or potting soil, and seal the pot up in clear plastic. Move them out of direct sunlight. They should root in four to eight weeks. In preparing the soil for planting, you can have your soil tested to make sure the pH is acidic enough, and then work in organic matter in the source of humus, compost or similar material. Remember, we like to work up a larger area than just the planting hole.
I have a camellia in my back yard. Each year it is full of buds, but only two or three ever bloom. The rest turn brown and eventually fall off. What is my problem? I see many in our area which bloom beautifully.
Several things may be a problem. First of all, late winter to early spring blooming camellias, are Camellia japonica, and they don’t like cold weather. They need to be planted in a protected spot away from afternoon sunlight. If your plant is in the open, the flower buds will go through more extremes in temperature, and will suffer more winter damage. There are also different varieties, some being more cold tolerant than others. This could explain why your neighbors plants bloom more readily. There are some good varieties, and some winters are easier on the plants than others. A protected environment will also help a great deal. Another option is to plant the fall to early winter blooming varieties of Camellia sasanqua, which are more cold tolerant than the japonica types.
When should I prune camellias and yellow bells and what type of fertilization is needed? Thanks for your help.
Camellias and yellow bells (or forsythia) should be pruned if needed this spring after they are done blooming, and all chances of frost have passed. Forsythias benefit from pruning out the older canes each season, to make room for younger canes, which should give you more flowers next year. Forsythias bloom on one year old wood. Leaving too many older canes can cut back on your flower production. One application of fertilizer per season of a complete fertilizer should work well.
I planted a camellia back in the spring. It looks healthy, but it isn’t growing like I wish it would. I didn’t use any fertilizer when I planted it, I just used good top soil. Should I give it a little Miracle Gro or just try to keep it alive this first summer?
We really aren’t as concerned with lots of new top growth the first year a plant is in the ground. If the plant looks good, hopefully it is spending most of its energy getting a root system established. For this year, concentrate your efforts on watering. Next spring, fertilize in the spring, as new growth begins, and again in June. If you don’t get new growth next year, then I would be concerned.
There are six LARGE camellia bushes in my yard. They line my driveway. The two largest are 10-12 feet tall, 10-12 feet in diameter. These two are next to each other, and the limbs have begun touching. The other four still have space between, and are smaller than the other two. One of the bushes has a red apple-like "fruit" on it that is about 1 and one half inch to 2 inches in diameter. What IS that? The local gardener said he'd never seen anything like it before. Can the bushes be pruned back after they bloom this winter (they have many, many buds already), and if so, how much? They are beautiful when in full bloom. There are a few new plants sprouting up beneath the largest bush.
The small growths you have are actually the seed pods from last years flowers. I think they are attractive, and they won't hurt the plant in any way. Growing camellias from seed would be too time consuming in my opinion, but do enjoy the seed pods. Pruning should be done in the spring, after all chances of frost have passed. You wouldn't want to prune right after flowering, since cold weather can still occur then, and could damage the plants. You can prune as much as needed. A solid hedge of camellias I think would be nice, but if you want to keep them separate, feel free to do so. Follow up your pruning with an application of azalea fertilizer. If you have young sprouts at the base, these could be moved at pruning to start some new plants.
Enclosed is a leaf from a camellia bush in my parents yard in southeast Arkansas. What do we need to do for the plant? I think the black covering is from pecan trees.
The plant is covered in scale insects. They could be causing the black sooty mold, which is a by-product of the honeydew given off by the scale, or it could come from the pecan trees if they have aphids. Spray the plants thoroughly with a dormant or horticultural oil whenever the temperature is scheduled to be above 40 degrees for 24 hours. Remember, thorough coverage is necessary for complete control of the insects.
I planted a Camellia bush this past October (3 ft tall). It's been blooming wonderfully. When the blooms die, should I pinch the dead buds off or let it be? Also, will the recent heavy snow have any adverse affects?
I would let the spent blossoms be, unless they look unsightly. Any pruning that is needed should be done in the spring, as new growth is beginning. The only problem with the recent heavy snow, would be possible limb breakage from the weight of the snow. Otherwise, snow is actually a good insulator.
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