Camellia leaves turning yellow

Credit: Peter Symcox

Q: My camellia’s leaves turn yellow about this time of year, and it has never bloomed since planted four years ago.

It is close to the house on the south side, which means it is in shade till well past noon. Is that the problem?

I will assume the camellia in question is not planted too deep since this can cause the camellia’s leaves to turn yellow.

I believe the yellow is most likely caused by inadequate nitrogen in the soil. This can be corrected by applying an organic mulch around the base of the plant no more than 5 centimetres (2 inches) thick but not touching the main stem (leave at least 10 cm clear), at least once a season. Mulching will also conserve moisture and decrease weeding.

Additional fertilizer could also be used, such as a rhododendron type fertilizer (with a higher nitrogen content), as directed on the label. Make sure fertilizer is broadcasted evenly and watered in well.

Healthy plant should have good size and colour leaves. Camellia easily put on 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches) of growth a season. Uneven watering late in the summer and fall can also decrease chances of flower bud setting. With the use of an organic mulch to conserve moisture, apply supplemental watering during prolonged dry stretches, and usually at least once or twice a week a deep, thorough watering. Camellias under building eaves or near tree canopies may not get enough water despite rain.