My camellia is dropping its leaves, what could be wrong?

Q.

Hi, our camellias seem to be shedding more leaves than in the past and they are not yellowing indicating a lack of feeding or soil condition. The plants have been in our garden from 10-15 years and although they have been flowering really well the leaves seem to be a problem because we have not had this in the past to the extent they are now.

alan cameron

A.

Hi Alan, evergreen trees do drop leaves, but sudden leaf drop on evergreen trees is a sign of stress, it will be process of elimination to work out the cause. As you mention, you don't think it is feeding and soil condition, but have the plants recently been fertilised, camellias have a very superficial root system close to the soil surface, over application of fertiliser can cause defoliation. If you suspect this may be the problem put the hose or sprinkler on to the trees for 15-20 minutes to try and leach excess fertiliser out of the soil. Another reason is drying out especially if it has been unseasonably dry, regular consistent watering is best, avoid watering only when you see the trees starting to suffer from lack of water. Apply mulch when the soil is damp, around the base of the trees to help conserve soil moisture and to keep the roots cool and moist, which is what camellias prefer. If there has been excessive rain or irrigation and the soil is too wet or waterlogged and not draining plants roots don't like sitting in water as this causes root rot disorders due to poor drainage. It could also be sudden changes in temperature from hot to cold then hot again. Has concrete been poured near by, camellias prefer acid soil conditions, concrete is alkaline and can leach into the soil, changing the pH. For now, keep an eye on your trees, keep watering regularly every 2-3 days depending upon the weather, avoid applying fertiliser at this time, weekly applications of Tui Seaweed Plant Tonic at a rate of 70-100ml per 9L watering can will benefit the plants, continue weekly until leaf drop stops, then apply seaweed tonic every 2-4 weeks. Lianne.

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