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Hello gardeners, I have a Camellia Japonica which I planted last June and established well. It is now in bloom but the petals are quickly browning at their edges, and I notice all the new leaves are growing completely black, with other new leaves also blackening. I cannot detect and insect cause. Somebody please help!



Hi Robin and welcome to GoY. Where do you live in the UK and what are your soil conditions? Have you considered this might be sooty mould caused by the scale insect?

7 Apr, 2012


Hello, thank you for your reply. I'm in Preston. The soil was originally clay-like but I mixed in a load of ericaceous. I did consider sooty mould thank you, but the new leaves are actually sprouting through already fully black, and the leaves are black all the way through, not just on the surface. I can't find any insects anywhere either. Hmm!

7 Apr, 2012


Hi Robin. MG could well be on the right track but can you give us a few more details (a picture would be nice). Things other than the scale insect that can cause this are soil borne vine-weevil or maybe too alkaline soil. Have you checked for acidity? It is now very cheap to buy a pH meter somewhere like Wilko or on eBay. Might be worth looking at. It is possible that too much lime in the soil is blocking the uptake of iron, in which case a good ericaceous fertiliser and some ferrous sulphate will fettle it.

7 Apr, 2012


Soil probably is still too alkaline for the Camellia... How well did you water last year and did you tease the root ball open prior to planting? I tend to give remove pot grown shrubs from the pot and give the root ball a good drink befor planting.

7 Apr, 2012


Hello Robin! In addition to the above, there are two other possibilities I can suggest - the first is over-watering, or lack of drainage, causing rot, and the second is frost damage. The first will compound the second! Camellia leaves, especially new ones, certainly do turn black if exposed to frost temperatures, and prefer a protected spot where they can quietly and slowly defrost before the sun hits them. They do not like sudden changes in temperature, which will lead to the leaf and bud damage caused by frost followed by bright sun. South-west facing is best, out of exposed cold winds.

7 Apr, 2012


Thank you so much guys, MG I don't think I did tease out the root-ball, I will certainly do so henceforth! Sarra, I have an acidity kit somewhere so will test the soil. Av, the position is out of the sun, but I think you may be onto something with the poor drainage. Plenty for me to go at! Thanks again guys, Happy Easter.

8 Apr, 2012

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