The Q&A Archives: Browning Camellia

Question: My camellia bush leaves are turning brown and falling off. Also some of the buds are falling off. Should I fertilize it or leave it alone? Or should I buy a new because this one is dead?

Answer: It's possible your camellia has Petal Blight Disease. This fungus (Sclerotinia camelliae) attacks mostly the flower petals, but also is a concern on the leaves if severe. The best control is sanitation. Remove all fallen flower petals immediately and dispose ofthem. They are a source for fungal spores that reinfect the tree. Replace the mulch
every year and make sure the tree has good air circulation around it so the leaves and petals dry off quickly after a rain. This disease is very weather dependent. I have had the same problem and some years it is worse than others. This year I don't see a trace of the disease, but it depends on your local weather. Warm, humid conditions are very conducive to the development of this fungus.

I wouldn't give up on the plant just yet. Don't fertilize, because it's already stressed, but do prune back the dead stems (to encourage new, healthy growth). Water well once each week and wait to see what happens. If no new growth appears this spring, replace the camellia with a healthy new plant.

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