6 Reasons Camellia Leaves Turn Yellow and Brown

When you plant a camellia in your garden, you’re probably counting on vibrant evergreen leaves and exquisite flowers. However, sometimes camellia leaves may begin to turn yellow or brown. Keep reading to learn about the possible causes of this discoloration and ways to remedy the issue.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Yellow and Brown Leaves on Camellia Plants

Reasons Why Camellia Leaves Are Turning Yellow or Brown

While we would like to point you to one reason why your camellia leaves have lost their green, we can’t.

That’s because there are many different reasons why camellia leaves may turn yellow or brown, including environmental issues, pests, and diseases. Your job is to look at the possible causes of discolored leaves and determine which applies to your plant.

Drought

Well-established camellia plants can tolerate brief periods of drought. However, young plants are less able to handle the stress that drought causes, which can result in yellow or brown leaves on camellia plants.

Therefore, keep the soil slightly moist until your camellia plants are well established.

It’s also important to remember that a plant’s water needs vary depending on the environment. Since plants cool themselves via transpiration (the process in which water evaporates from plant leaves), access to water is crucial during hot periods.

Overwatering

A healthy camellia plant in full bloom with pink flowers and deep green leaves

That’s right—too much water can also lead to discolored leaves!

While it may sound counterintuitive, too much water can actually prevent plants from taking up water.

If plant roots constantly sit in wet soil, the roots may begin to rot. If this happens, the plants have a difficult time absorbing water as well as completing gas exchange.

Aim to keep the soil moist but not wet. The amount you should water depends on many environmental factors, but you can expect to water your camellia one to three times per week.

Poor Soil

While overwatering can lead to problems with water uptake and gas exchange, so can improper soil type.

The best Camellia soil types are well-draining and well-aerated. Therefore, problems may arise if you plant camellias in compacted or heavy clay soils.

Loosening your soil with a digging fork before planting can help improve both aeration and drainage. And mixing in a bit of finished compost can also help improve soil texture and structure.

Frost Damage

Most types of camellia are moderately cold-hardy and can survive temperatures as low as 0ºF. Although the exact cold tolerance depends on both the species and variety, camellias are generally hardy to USDA zones 6 or 7.

That said, extremely cold temperatures or prolonged cold periods can damage camellia leaves. If the temperatures dip below 0ºF, the leaves may become frost burnt.

As the leaves thaw, they often appear like they have been dusted with a layer of brown paint. This discoloration is a sign of tissue damage.

Long periods of extreme cold can damage the entire plant and even lead to its death. Therefore, you must protect your camellia plants from this cold.

One option is to plant your camellia in containers and bring the plants into a sheltered area during the winter. If you opt for this method, place the plants somewhere cool (like a garage) rather than in a warm house.

If temperatures are expected to hit 0ºF for only a short period, you can leave the plants in the ground. Heavily mulch around the base of the plant with wood chips or straw to protect the plant’s roots.

Sun Damage

A camellia plant exposed to bright, direct sunlight displaying signs of yellowing and brown leaves

Many types of camellia cannot handle bright afternoon sun. These harsh rays can damage the leaves’ tissues, causing the leaves to become yellow, white, or brown.

Over time, the damaged leaves will likely fall off the plant. However, new leaves will continue to grow normally.

The best way to prevent sun damage is to shield your camellia plants from direct afternoon light. This could involve placing the plants on an east-facing side of a home or planting them in an area that receives dappled light.

Sap-Sucking Pests

Small pests like aphids, spider mites, thrips, and scales use their piercing and sucking mouthparts to remove plant sap. When many of these pests attack camellia leaves, the leaves may become discolored.

If you notice lots of these pests, you can control them by spraying them with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Yellow or Brown Leaves on Camellias FAQs: 

What Are My Camellia Leaves Yellow?

Camellia leaves may turn yellow due to drought, overwatering, sun damage, cold damage, sap-sucking pests, and more.

Will Yellow Camellia Leaves Become Green Again?

Once camellia leaves become discolored, they are unlikely to return to their original green state. However, new leaves are likely to emerge green and healthy.

Wrapping Up: 

There may be several reasons camellia leaves may turn yellow or brown, including environmental issues, pests, and diseases. Remember to look at the possible causes of discolored leaves and determine which applies to your plant for the best action.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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