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Second time my camellia is dying. WHY???

CJ Mac
September 11, 2018

(Zone 7b, Birmingham, AL)

On either side of our front door, we have large pots in which we planted October Magic Bride camellias last Autumn. They seemed to both do well over the winter, but in the Spring, one of them started looking very sick while the other was thriving. Nurseryman we purchased them from thought perhaps there wasn't enough drainage in the one pot. After it just wouldn't stop dropping leaves, we purchased a new one--couldn't remember the name Magic Bride and ended up with a Magic Snow. He also suggested some pentas as filler, but they grew bigger and higher than the camellias and I have removed them and planted them in the ground.

At any rate, this new Magic Snow looked BEAUTIFUL when we planted it in the Spring--bigger and fuller than the already-healthy Magic Bride. But in the past month or so (when the pentas were still in there), I realized how brown the leaves were becoming on the Snow. That's when I removed the pentas and started watering like crazy. But we now have the same thing all over again: one healthy camellia and one sick-looking camellia. The leaves on the healthy one are glossy and deep green; the sick one has lost most of its leaves and what's left are dull and more pale.

When I potted the new camellia, I made sure there was plenty of drainage this time. Now I'm wondering if I created too much drainage. But when I use those terra cotta plant watering spikes, the water in the bottles doesn't move at all (I put two in the one pot). Don't know what's up with that.

This is depressing me. I'm not a green thumb, but why would one be so healthy and the other not? The unhealthy one probably gets a little more sun--should I switch them? Repot with less drainage?

Healthy Magic Bride

Struggling Magic Snow

Since I took the pentas out, both containers looks a little sparse. What could I add as filler that isn't going to take any nutrients from the unhealthy one? (And yes, I have been fertilizing with Osmocote.)

Thinking of selling our house, and want so badly to have two beautiful pots on either side of the front door. :-(

Comments (3)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    For most containerized woody plants, you can't have 'too much drainage' :-) If anything, I'd guess the plants may be overwatered or sitting in soggy potting mix. What kind of potting mix are you using? And how frequently do you water?

    btw, the Osmocote is a once a season application. Are you applying more frequently than that?

  • CJ Mac

    The nurseryman (whose expertise I trust) told us to give them about 2Tb per pot early March, May, and late July/early August

    The pot was dry as a bone when I first noticed how bad the plant looked. Now we've been watering it a lot.

    Why is the other one doing just fine in the same conditions?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Osmocote Flower and Vegetable lasts for 4 months. Osmocote Plus lasts for 6 months. You do not need to (nor should you) apply them more frequently than that.

    Watering "a lot" doesn't really tell us anything :-) And the frequency of the watering will depend on the potting soil you are using - some are very moisture retentive and do not need to be watered too often less you risk root rot. Other soil mixes could require daily watering, so we need to know the details of that as well.

    And each plant is an individual. Even growing in exactly the same conditions they can behave differently, although I'd suspect there is something else going on with the one that is struggling.

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