Troubleshooting Curling Camellia Leaves: What You Need to Know

Healthy camellia plants have evergreen leaves that remain primarily straight. However, these leaves can curl if they become stressed. In this guide, I’ll share the most common reasons for curling camellia leaves, and what you can do to fix the issue with your own garden plants.

Troubleshooting Curling Camellia Leaves: What You Need to Know

Sun Scalding

Many types of camellias prefer partial shade or dappled light rather than full sun. Direct sun, especially during a hot afternoon, may damage the leaves.

Signs of sun scalding include portions of leaves that appear light green, yellow, brown, or red. The leaves also often curl downwards to protect themselves from the light.

The best way to prevent sun scalding is to plant your camellia in a location that will protect it from harsh afternoon light. An east-facing side of a building or a place near taller plants are often good locations.

You should also be careful when moving your camellia from one location to the next. If you are moving it to a sunnier spot, let it slowly acclimate to its new environment.

The Pot Is Too Small

If you’re growing your camellia plant in a pot, you’ll need to pay attention to the size of the container. Plants that are growing in pots that are too small may become rootbound, which may cause camellia leaves to curl.

Rootbound plants experience stress, which may present in a variety of ways. One sign of stress is curling leaves.

Fortunately, it’s easy to remedy this problem! Simply repot your camellia plant into a container that is a few inches larger than the current pot.

You can also plant your potted camellia into the ground if you live in a suitable environment.

The Soil Is Compacted or Too Shallow

A cluster of green camellia leaves that appear to be curling

Even if your camellia is planted directly in the ground, it’s still possible for the roots to become stressed. And if this happens, the plant’s leaves may curl.

Plant roots often have difficulty growing in compacted soils, especially if the soil is high in clay. Just consider how much more challenging it is to dig through compacted soil than through aerated soil.

You can use a digging fork to aerate and loosen the soil before planting. Insert the tines into the ground, pull the handle back a few inches, and then remove the digging fork. The goal is to crack the soil rather than turn it over.

Camellia leaves may also curl if the plant grows in shallow soil. Therefore, before planting your camellia, ensure there isn’t any shallow bedrock.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the best soil for camellia plants.

Frost Damage

A camellia plant with purple flowers is lightly covered in snow

Camellia plants can tolerate frost, but sudden or extreme frosts can damage these flowering plants leading to curling leaves. Cold temperatures coupled with drying winds can be especially harmful to camellia plants.

The leaves may curl if your plant suddenly loses moisture from cold temperatures and drying winds.

You can protect your plant from these conditions by planting it in a protected location. Buildings and other plants can serve as windbreaks and help protect your camellia.

Mulching is another way to protect your plant during the winter. Place a few inches of wood chips or straw around the base of the plant to insulate the roots from sudden swings in air temperature.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the ideal growing zones for camellia plants.


While well-established camellia plants can handle light droughts, arid soils will stress these plants.

If your camellia plant does not have access to enough water, it will begin to curl its leaves in an attempt to conserve moisture. Plants are even more likely to curl their leaves when the weather is hot, the air is dry, or the wind is high.

Keeping the soil slightly moist can prevent curling leaves due to drought. Watering at regular intervals (at least once a week during the summer) can help. Mulching the soil with wood chips or straw can also help retain moisture.

Transplant Shock

Even if you carefully handle your plants, transplanting is still stressful. Plants often show this stress by curling their leaves.

As long as you plant your camellia in a suitable location, it will recover from the stress of transplanting within a week or two.

Curling Camellia Leaves FAQs: 

Should I Remove Curing Camellia Leaves?

Curling camellia leaves can often uncurl and return to a healthy state. However, if the leaves are severely discolored and/or diseased, you can remove the leaves from the plant.

Can a Lack of Water Cause Camellia Leaves to Curl?

Curling leaves can be a sign of under-watering, so make sure your plant is getting enough water.

Do Pests and Diseases Causes Camellia Leaves to Curl?

Curling camellia leaves can signify pest infestations, such as aphids or spider mites, or diseases, such as camellia leaf gall. Check for any signs of pests or diseases and take appropriate measures to address them.

Should I Fertilize Camellia Plants with Curling Leaves?

Curling camellia leaves can also indicate nutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of nitrogen or iron. Make sure your plant is getting the proper nutrients through regular fertilization.

Can Pruning Cause Camellia Leaves to Curl?

Over-pruning or improper pruning can also cause curling leaves. Ensure you’re pruning at the right time and in the right way.

Wrapping Up: 

The most common causes of camellia leaf curl include environmental stress, pests and diseases, overwatering or underwatering, and nutrient deficiencies. By identifying the underlying causes and taking steps to correct them, you can help your camellias recover and thrive. With proper care and attention, you can enjoy healthy, vibrant camellia plants with lush, glossy foliage with minimal curling or discoloration throughout the camellia blooming season.

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