The Q&A Archives: Camellia Debbie

Question: How suseptable to petal blight is Camellia Debbie? I am looking for a camellia that blooms in January and February, can be grown as an espadlier, and won't get (much) petal blight. Is Debbie a good choice? Is it available? Anything else you would suggest?

Answer: Camellia flower blight, or petal blight, is one of the biggest threats to camellia growth. Caused by the fungus Ciborinia camelliae, formerly Sclerotinia camelliae, it infects only the flower tissue of camellias, does not spread from flower to flower, and is characterized by brown spots on the petals that spread rapidly to engulf the whole bloom. Infected blooms fall to the ground and in time produce a sclerotium in the base of the bloom. These sclerotia are the source of survival of the fungus until the following year. Sclerotia may lie dormant in the soil up to 4 years. When warm and humid conditions occur, small, dime-sized, brownish-gray mushrooms, known as apothecia, are produced from the sclerotia to liberate the spores that are the infective stage. This produces another cycle of petal blight. A community effort is needed to control the disease since the spores can be carried by wind for half a mile or more. It is prevalent and most active in humid areas when the temperatures range between 45 degrees F and 70 degrees F during the mid- to late-season flowering period.

Camellia Debbie is moderately resistance to petal blight. If you practice good garden sanitation, and if the weather cooperates, your new camellia should have minimal petal blight.

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