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Change of flower color???

November 13, 2005

I have a camellia that I purchased 6 years ago as a cutting from a specialty nursery in N. Calif. I was told it was 'rare', would not grow more than 5' in height and what they sold was cuttings taken from only one plant they had growning in their park-like garden. Unfortunately, during our latest move, I lost the info of its name/type.

After the purchase, I kept it in a pot the first 3 years and it bloomed yearly. We then moved to Oregon and I planted it in the ground. For 2 years it rarely bloomed because of the deer so I repotted it to keep it near the house. This year it was covered in its typical blooms ......see photo.

I planted it back in the ground late this spring and it actually bloomed 4 weeks ago......just a few branches, not the whole plant. Anyway, my problem is: all the blooms were white!! It's covered in buds and I can see lots of white in the buds.

Does anyone know what could possibly be causing this?


Comments (14)

  • birdinthepalm

    I think sometimes camellias may undergo some spontaneous mutations and have different colored flowers or patterned flower right next to the old ones. In general however, those mutations only show up on a few branches and not the entire plant, and other than that I can only thin a virus might cause a change, though I've not heard of that in camelias. In other flowers micronutrients or the lack there of can cause flower color changes and sometimes pH as well, but since camellias need acid soil and lots of iron and magnesium it could be your soil is a bit "off"! I'm no expert however, so it's just speculation on my part!!

  • laurie_bray

    It's just a sport... it's very common.... you have now another camellia...


  • annzgw

    Thanks Laurie..........I feel a little better now!
    I've been searching the forum and the web for more info, but I can't find anything stating which rootstock is best to use if I want to graft the sport.
    Won't the rootstock I choose affect the overall results and color of the sport?

    I've been checking out the recommended books and hope to get a couple later this week.
    Any advice appreciated....................

  • Virginia_Bill

    In addition to grafting, you should also be able to propagate your camellia by cuttings, or for larger plants more quickly, by air layering.

    The latter is my preferred camellia progagation method and I usually do a couple dozen per year.

    Best of luck with your new baby!


  • annzgw

    Thanks Virginia...............makes sense that's the way to go! Don't know why I didn't consider it!

  • greenguy1

    Annz -

    Do you know for sure that it was a rooted cutting that you bought? Or, is there a possibility that it was a cutting grafted onto a rootstock? Perhaps your red camellia came grafted onto a root stock which has put out a few branches of its own that are now blooming white. Are the branches you describe with white flowers coming out at or connected to branches that come out at the base of the plant? This would support the rootstock idea. One of the reasons this seems likely is that you describe the white blooms as having come just recently, at a different time of year than the red blooms. Perhaps the root stock is a fall blooming type while the topstock is a spring bloomer.

    As for grafting some of the white blooming branches onto something, I agree with Virginia Bill that you might want to consider layering so you get a plant on its own roots, which precludes a situation later where the rootstock starts producing flowers different from the topgraft. If you do successfully graft, the rootstock will have no affect on the flower color or blooming of the topstock.

    I have a beautiful fall blooming camellia called 'Setsugekka' (a very common variety sold commercially) which last year started throwing deep magenta-red blooms as well, and I did indeed find that all of the red flowers could be traced back to a single large branch coming off just at the base of the plant. I did a little research and found that a variety called 'Kanjiro' (common in commerce for its own flowers as well) is very often used as rootstock for grafting fall blooming camellias, and the red flowers completely match the photos and descriptions I've found of this variety.

    - Steve

  • annzgw

    I really appreciate your help on determining if this is a mutation or rootstock!
    I now think you may be right about the white possibly being from a rootstock. I went out this AM and cleaned up the base and took a close look. The branch (trunk?) on the left has the typical dark red buds that will open next spring. The right side of the fork is the one blooming white. I would have sworn the whole plant bloomed red this spring but now I have my doubts. I do remember the new growth from the 'right fork' this past year was fast and lanky, whereas the other side is very, very slow and compact. Also, there's a huge height difference between the two sides..............the right side is 3'ft tall, the left is barely 16"!
    Sooooo, the new question is: should I cut out the branch blooming white? It's definitely not as pretty IMO!



  • longriver

    It is most likely that the the white flower comes from understock. I graft lots of my seedling plants in order to see my new seedling flower one year early.

    Interesting enough, most gardeners of western contries and China enjoy "more petals" camellia flowers. Single camellia flowers however are very popular in Japan.

  • annzgw

    The white flower is starting to grow on me, so I think I'll air-layer it next spring. Then cut the rest of the branch off the plant.

  • Mike Lachance

    I inherited a large camelia that has mulitple colored flowers all on the same bush! some are deep red, some white, some pink and some a combination of the above (sort of like what Sweet William does).
    the bush is about 12 feet tall and blooms a bit before the lilac (I have a photo of them both in bloom, though the camelia was passing). They are beside each other on the west side of the house.

  • bill_ri_z6b

    Since you mentioned that the deer got at it, they may well have "pruned off" the original grafted variety on half of your plant, and that allowed the understock to grow, thus giving you white flowers from that growth. Just a thought.


  • annzgw

    Wow, interesting to see this thread pop back up!

    After pruning and cleaning up the camellia I determined the branch of white flowers was indeed coming off of rootstock. I was able to see where the branch of white was coming off the trunk below the main 'branch/trunk' of red flowers. I ended up cutting off the limb coming off the rootstock and the whole plant now looks healthier and well formed.
    It hasn't sent any shoots off the rootstock since.......

    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions!

    This post was edited by annz on Mon, Feb 10, 14 at 11:33

  • Shaila Andrabi

    I have a Camilla that is about fifteen years old. It was Japonica I think in red. It was getting leaf burn due to too much sun but still blooming. We then moved to a new house and I took my plant with us. I planted it on the north side of the house where it bloomed quite happily. Then I noticed a very tall branch sticking up from the rounded plant; like a sucker. I let it grow. Now that tall branch is a huge tree about ten feet tall. It is growing vigorously towards the sun and has grown beyond the house wall that sheltered it. Now the whole thing looks like two kind of camillias. Rounded one in the shade of the house growing slowly and the tall one growing fast towards the sun. The tall part has not bloomed at all. The smaller one bloomed every year but this year. What should I do? Keep the huge rootstock? Will it ever bloom? Are there non flowering rootstocks? Should I cut it off? It is about three inches thick trunk now.

    Shaila in Los Angeles.

  • luis_pr

    I doubt it is a camellia, as it would have bloomed already if it is already that tall. Also, camellias do not grow very fast, just a few inches per year in many cases, and this plant looks like it is eating all the nitrogen in the planet! Try to "trace down" the plant to the base in order to confirm that the tall one is coming from the camellia or not.

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