The Q&A Archives: Camellia Developing Brown Tips

Question: I have 2 camelias in containers. They are 6-7 years old, 4-5 feet tall, and flowering well. I have been keeping them at that height. The last few years the lower area (about 2 feet from the bottom) became bare and they keep browning on tips. (I've been clipping the tips to get them busher but doens't seem to be working. How do I get leaves appear at lower area? I don't want to clip tips into summer so I won't lose next year's flowers. Please give advice.

Answer: When shrubs are headed back or sheared routinely (random cutting of ends of twigs), a lot of thick, dense new growth is produced near the outer portions of the canopy. As a result, less light reaches the interior portions of the plant, leaves within the canopy becomes sparse, and the plant becomes leggy (bare on the lower portion). The best way to correct this and to encourage interior growth is to thin the branches by cutting some all the way back to the trunk. This will allow more light to penetrate and result in a bushier plant with more branches developing lower down on the trunk.

Brown tips usually indicate salt burn due to over-fertilization. Hold off on feeding this season and if your camellia is planted near a lawn, don't fertilize that portion of the lawn until you can leach some of the salts from the soil. (Leach by flooding the area when you water your camellias.)

Best wishes with your landscape!

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