Skip to Content

7 Common Causes of Camellia Leaves Curling (And How To Fix)

Camellias are those plants that always catch the eye. First of all it is because of their wonderful flowers. Today we are going to talk about a problem that sometimes happens to this remarkable plant.

Environmental influences are the most common cause of camellia leaf curl. It can be a frost, a cold draught, or extreme heat. In addition, overwatering, drought, and pests can also cause curling.

In the following, we will look at all of these cases separately and in detail. You will learn what to do to correct the negative effects of one or another factor on the camellia.

Environmental issues

camellia leaves curling up

Environmental issues

Camellia is a living organism and is very sensitive to its environment. This is inherent in all living beings, so changes in the environment always affect them.

First of all, this applies to sudden changes in temperature. For example, if it was warm during the day, but at night the temperature dropped very low, the plant will react for sure. One such reaction can be the curling of leaves to reduce the leaf area.

Leaves can also fold in half in length due to cold drafts. For example, a camellia grows in an open place where there is a cold wind at night. This causes the leaves to curl upwards starting from the sides, but not from the tip.

This can also happen from extreme heat or underwatering.

How to fix it?

To avoid this, plant the camellia in a location that is protected from draughts and strong winds. But if your camellia is already growing in such a location, transplant it to a more sheltered location or plant other more hardy plants around it.

In general, nothing bad will happen to the camellia from this type of curling. The deformed leaves will stay that way forever and nothing needs to be done about it. The new leaves that will appear over time will have a normal appearance.


camellia leaves curling and turning brown


The second cause of camellia leaf curl is that the soil is too moist. This causes the roots to soften and become very susceptible to rot. The soil usually contains many pathogens of various diseases that can cause root rot.

Excessive moisture in the soil can be caused by too frequent watering or prolonged rainfall. Also, poorly drained soil stays wet for long periods of time, which can cause root rot.

Symptoms of this are the downward curling of the leaves. It is also possible for the leaves to discolor or turn brown.

How to fix it?

To avoid root rot, plant camellia in well-drained soil. Avoid planting in areas where the soil is very wet.

If necessary, transplant the camellia to a less humid location using a soil conditioner as a native soil improver. Do this only in early spring before the plant wakes up.

Never overwater the camellia. The soil in the root zone should be 2 inches dry between waterings.

Camellia Leaf Gall

camellia leaves curling

Camellia Leaf Gall

Camellia leaf gall is a disease of fungal origin that affects leaves. The pathogen that causes it is Exobasidium camelliae. It usually occurs in wet weather with young leaves at the branch tips.

At first, the leaf becomes discolored and begins to curl inward. Over time, a large, strange-looking growth will form there. Usually there are not many galls on a single tree.

How to fix it?

Carefully cut off the part of the branch that has the gall on it. Try not to damage the gall and not to leave any of it on the tree. Immediately place the gall in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash.

To date, there are no chemical treatments for this disease. Therefore, you do not need to spray the camellia with anything.


camellia leaves curling down


There is a type of insect that feeds on plant sap but not tissue. By piercing and penetrating into the plant they extract from there the sap rich in nutrients. This provides them with food for further reproduction.

Such pests are primarily scale and aphids. They build colonies on the leaves and branches of the camellia and parasitize it. As a result, the most damaged leaves may curl.

How to fix it?

If you see insects on the curled leaves, spray them with horticultural oil or neem oil. You can buy a concentrate and dilute it in water using dish soap or buy a ready-to-use product.

Also, insecticidal soap works well against aphids and scale. Just spray the camellia a few times at 2-week intervals and the problem is solved.

In the more difficult cases, you may have to use an insecticide. This is a very powerful product although it is not always easy to find.

Transplant shock

camellia leaves curling

Transplant shock

The next thing to mention here is the transplant shock. Replanting is a very difficult activity for any plant. If it is not done correctly, the plant can suffer.

If the camellia is transplanted at the wrong time or if the root system is damaged, the camellia leaves may curl. In this way, the plant tries to reduce the evaporation of water and the effect of the sun on the leaves.

How to fix it?

If the camellia leaves curl after transplanting, immediately place an additional shade over it. Use a garden umbrella or shade netting or something similar. The main thing is to protect it from direct sun for several months.

Next, water it with 2 gallons of water once. In the following months, don’t let the soil dry out more than 2 inches, but don’t overwater the camellia.

To avoid transplant shock, transplant the camellia only in early spring before it wakes up from its winter dormancy. Do not damage the roots when digging out. Transplant the camellia in cloudy weather by watering it first.

Frost damage

Frost can also cause camellia leaves to curl. In general, this plant is quite frost-resistant, but there are still cases where frost can damage them.

Sometimes it happens that a camellia has already come out of dormancy and started to grow actively. But suddenly a late frost arrives and if the weather was wet, the leaves can become deformed. Sometimes even some of the leaves can freeze and turn black.

How to fix it?

Plant camellia in sheltered locations especially from frosty winds. Always mulch the root zone to keep the heat around the roots.

If frosts come in the spring, cover the camellia for that time. Simply put a frost blanket over the camellia for the duration of the frost.

Jane Low

Monday 30th of October 2023

I inherited a potted Camilla. I cut off brown tipped leaves. Some leaves appear to have very tiny rust coloured dots on the underside. There are no blossoms.

I planted in light composted soil with good drainage and morning sun, afternoon filtered . It is protected from any wind.

The tree bark had almost a grey dried lichen residue that I can rub off the branches.

Should I use an insecticide soap? I am not sure if I should do a hard trim after the winter?

Igor Viznyy

Wednesday 1st of November 2023

Hi Jane Low. Rusty dots on the leaves most likely indicate the presence of a fungal disease. Use a fungicide to treat the camellia.

Use insecticidal soap only if you see insect pests.

I only recommend cutting back the camellia if it is too large.

Sheelagh Autef

Tuesday 30th of May 2023

My camellia is facing north in the front of my house. It is in a pot in a corner. I covered it during frost. The leaves look curly and it doesn’t flower. It is really unhappy and so am I. I have repotted it 18 months ago into Ericaceous soil… Hope you can help me. Sheelagh Autef

Igor Viznyy

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Hi Sheelagh. I would recommend transplanting your camellia into the open ground as it needs a strong and large root system to flower. Choose a place where there is direct sun only in the morning or evening, the rest of the time it should remain in light shade.

Add 1-2 buckets of quality compost to the planting hole and mix with native soil. Water the first year when the soil is 1-2 inches dry. Fertilize once a year with slow-release fertilizer for flowering shrubs.

Also, don't expect the camellia to bloom the first year after planting. Sometimes it can take several years. I hope this is helpful to you.