Problems With Camelias

A member of the tea family, the camellia (Camellia japonica) is a small tree or large shrub notable for its showy pink, white or red flowers, which appear in late winter and early spring. Though fairly hardy, camellias are subject to their own pests and problems like any other garden plant.

Leaf Discoloration

Leaf discoloration is often a sign of a problem with a camellias plant. Excessive yellowing leaves may be caused by improper growing conditions. Camellias prefer well-draining, rich soil that is kept moist, but not water logged. Too little water or too much water, in conjunction with poor soil, can cause leaf yellowing. Brown leaves are more likely to be caused by too long of a drought, or from a rapid change in the amount of sun the plant receives in a day. Recently-moved plants may develop wilting or browning leaves because their new location has more or less sunlight than they're accustomed to. Camellias do best in USDA zones 6 to 9, and gardeners in cooler climates who aren't mulching well may experience brown leaves due to frost damage.

Bud Loss

Bud loss the diagnosis when a plant's new flower buds are dropping off, or simply seem to disappear. Pruning a shrub too early may cause bud loss, so be sure to prune the plant after its spring flowering so that next spring's blooming season won't be affected. Buds may also be stolen and eaten by a variety of animals, so be on the lookout for pests. Rapid changes in weather may be an issue for gardeners growing the plant outside of its native climate zone. While camellias love an acidic soil, be careful not to over-fertilize the shrub, as chemical damage may prevent the shrub from flowering.


Camellias are fairly pest-free, but aphids, spider mites and tea scale can all be problems. Aphids are small bugs that are green, white, brown or orange, and are often found swarming around on new leaves and buds. Mild aphid infestations can be treated by removing infected leaves or simply by washing the plant with a concentrated stream of water. Spider mites, which appear as a fine dusty coating on the leaves, may also be removed with water. Serious infections may require pesticides. Tea scale forms white patches under the leaves of the plant, and can eventually cause the death of the entire plant if left untreated for long. Scale can be removed with a scale-specific insecticide.

Keywords: camellia plant, camellia shrub, camellia problems

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.