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6 Mistakes That Cause Camellia Leaves To Turn Yellow (And How To Fix It)

Camellias are known for their stunning flowers and serve well as hedge plants, usually boasting shiny dark green leaves. However, these leaves can sometimes lose their vibrant color for various reasons. Let’s dive into what leads to this discoloration and how you can prevent it.

Although camellias can tolerate a bit of alkalinity in the soil, yellow leaves often signal that the plant is in soil with the wrong pH level. This condition, known as lime-induced chlorosis, occurs when the soil’s pH is too high, preventing the camellia from absorbing iron effectively.

1. Overwatering

camellia leaves turning yellow

Camellia leaves turned yellow because of root rot.

Overwatering camellias can keep the soil too wet for too long, leading to waterlogged roots. This makes the roots soggy and less able to absorb water and nutrients, leaving the camellias lacking in nutrients and causing their leaves to turn yellow—a sign something’s not right.

While yellow leaves can indicate several issues, it’s crucial to water your camellias only as needed. Luckily, it’s easy to figure out the right time to water them.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Water your camellias only when the top 2 inches of soil feel completely dry.
  2. Ensure your camellias have proper drainage to avoid waterlogging.

2. Soil Issues

camellia leaves turning yellow

Camellia leaves turned yellow because of high soil pH.

In more acidic soil, nutrients break down more easily, making essential nutrients like iron more accessible to camellias, which thrive in acidic conditions more than many other plants.

Identifying pH issues is straightforward: new growth turns yellow while older leaves remain a lush green. To confirm a pH imbalance, use an affordable soil pH testing kit from your local garden center. The optimal pH for camellias ranges from 6.0 to 6.5.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. If the soil pH is too high (above 7.0), lower it by adding a soil acidifier or organic matter.
  2. If the soil is overly acidic (pH below 5.5), raise the pH by adding garden lime.

3. Nutrients Imbalance

camellia leaves turning yellow

Camellia leaves turned yellow because of not enough nutrients.

If the soil lacks nutrients, the leaves may turn yellow, a condition distinct from other types of yellowing where the veins remain green while the rest of the leaf turns yellow. This condition, called chlorosis, indicates the plant isn’t getting enough nutrients.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Apply a fertilizer designed specifically for camellias, adhering to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  2. Keep an eye on new growth for changes in the yellowing of leaves, adjusting the fertilizer quantity as needed.

4. Pests

Pests

Camellia leaves turned yellow because of pest infestation.

Various pests, including scale and mealybugs, can attach themselves to plants, and camellias are no exception. Often, an infestation isn’t noticeable until the leaves start to yellow, characterized by distinct yellow spots and, in more severe cases, large clusters of these spots.

On the underside of the leaves, you might find something resembling spider webs but much finer, with tiny bugs dispersed within. The stems may also have small bumps, indicating bugs that have attached themselves to feed on the plant throughout their lifecycle. Fortunately, these pests are relatively easy to eliminate once identified.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Apply horticultural oil thoroughly over the infested areas.
  2. Dab isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) directly on them with a cotton swab.
  3. Use insecticidal soap, available at garden supply stores, and spray it on the affected spots.

5. Diseases

camellia leaves turning yellow

Camellia leaves turned yellow because of disease.

Various fungal diseases can develop on plants when spores land and take hold. These fungi feed on the sap of the leaves, leading to yellowing. This condition is identifiable by yellowing leaves that also show black spots, or by the presence of white or green mold on the leaf surface.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Treat the affected areas with a copper-based fungicide to eliminate the mold and prevent its spread.
  2. Prune the damaged leaves, being careful not to overly thin out the plant.

6. Underwatering

underwatering

Camellia leaves turned yellow because of underwatering.

The type of soil plays a crucial role in water retention. Dense, clay-heavy soil can prevent water from penetrating deeply and reaching the roots. Once water does infiltrate, it tends to linger, potentially leading to root damage.

Interestingly, even with regular rainfall or watering, your camellias might still suffer from what seems like underwatering due to this issue. Moreover, a dry spell of a week or two without additional watering can lead to a need for more hydration, often signaled by the leaves turning yellow.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Check the top 2 inches of soil; if it feels completely dry, it’s time to water your camellias.
  2. Add a generous layer of mulch around the base of the plant to gradually enhance soil quality.