Camellia Leaf Drop

Daniel Gill  |  10/20/2015 3:10:52 AM

picture of a camellia bush

picture of a camellia bush with few leaves

picture of a camellia bush with few leaves

Hi Dan, you have helped me with previous problems. I bought a Lady Vansittart camellia earlier this year. While initially it produced new limbs with full leaf growth, over the past several months the leaves keep dropping off with no new leaf growth. I do not notice any problems. I planted as instructed - with the bush being raised higher than soil level by several inches. It receives morning sun for around 3 to 4 hours. What can I do to revive this plant?

Thanks again, Steve R.


The camellia growing season is in the spring/early summer. After they produce their new growth, they do not grow any more. So, if you were expecting the camellia bush to stay in active growth all summer but it didn’t, there is no need for concern – this is normal.

Newly planted shrubs always experience stress their first summer in the ground. This stress associated with establishment often leads to yellowing and dropping of some of the leaves.

You may send me some pictures and I’ll be happy to take a look.

Dan Gill
Consumer Horticulture Specialist

Here are some pictures I took. The first one is after I bought it in the spring. What disturbs me is that I see no new growth. I hope that it's only the adjustment to a new location and planting.

Thanks for your help, Steve R.

Sorry, but I don’t see much hope for your camellia – it is pretty far gone. Sometimes plants we plant do not establish properly, fail to thrive and end up not making it. That seems to be the case for your camellia.

There is generally no easy answer in these situations. No one definite thing that can be pointed to as the cause for the camellia doing so poorly. Camellias prefer some shade, and a spot that gets sun most of the day is stressful to them. Care the summer after planting, particularly proper watering, plays a big role in how a plant does. Watering too much or too little can cause a plant to do poorly. The amount of rain that occurs is a factor. Temperature, such as the exceptionally hot weather we had in July, can be a factor.

This was not a situation where an insect or disease attacked the leaves or branches. It is possible if the camellia stayed too wet at some point (due to rain or generous irrigation or both) that root rot disease may have attacked the roots. Root problems are a common reason plants fail to properly establish.

There’s nothing dramatic you can do to help it. It is barely alive, but may recover some over the winter. Next spring, if you see it sending out new growth give it a light fertilizer application using an acid loving plant fertilizer.

Dan Gill
Consumer Horticulture Specialist

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