The Q&A Archives: Japanese Ternstroemia

Question: Last fall I planted some Japanese Ternstroemia in my garden. I understand that they are considered borderline based on my zone (Sunset 5, I think). Spring is here and I have noticed the dark green leaves of my Ternstroemia are becoming bright yellow/green. Is this a result of borderline cold hardiness or an issue with the soil? Is there anyway to bring back the dark green color of the leaves?

Answer: Your Ternstroemia sounds unhappy with either the soil conditions or the exposure to sun. In partial or full shade, the leaves will be deep green. Too much sun will bleach out the color. Ternstroemia needs lots of moisture and acidic, well-draining soil. Yellowing leaves might indicate the soil pH isn't low enough. Fertilize with an acidified plant food (such as one made for camellias) and tip-pinch your plant to encourage compact growth. Your plant is a relative of the camellia and native to China and Japan. Once it's established, it should be hardy in your growing region.

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