The Q&A Archives: Camellia leaves turned rusty brown and plant died

Question: Camellia in a fiberglass pot bought last year seemed to thrive over the winter, bloomed profusely and beautifully this Spring, suddenly the leaves all dried up, turned a rusty brown and the plant is dead (seemingly). However there has been no leaf drop. Camellia of another variety in a pot right next to this one is still doing great with almost perfect leaves (although it did not bloom this year). We have a rusty iron garden decoration stuck in the dead/dying camellia pot, the pot is of the foam variety.... any ideas?


Answer: I would be quite suspicious of an otherwise healthy-looking camellia suddenly dying. It could be a fungal root infection (such as phytophthera) or simply the result of insufficient water reaching the roots. (I don't think the garden decoration had anything to do with the death of your camellia.) Plants in containers can dry out rapidly in hot weather (and we all know how warm it has been lately). If you're sure your camellia received adequate water, I'd be tempted to take the plant to your local Cooperative Extension office for microscopic examination. To make it easier to transport, unpot, brush off as much of the loose soil as possible, then wrap the rootmass in newspaper and bag it up. You can prune away most of the top, but leave 2-3 branches with leaves attached. Take it immediately to your Cooperative Extension office (listed in the phone book under County offices). Old, dried out samples are practically useless so make sure you get the sample in for inspection as quickly as possible.

Best wishes with your garden!

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