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Under optimal conditions, the camellia grows bit by bit into a remarkable shrub. Every year it is covered with numerous rose-like flowers in bright colors. Leaves remain plain, forming a rich green glossy background. However, this ideal image can quickly fade if the foliage suddenly turns brown without much warning. The camellia is a demanding plant and brown leaves are the answer to lack of care.

Brown camellia leaves

Green camellia leaves are the norm, even in winter. While the flowers disappear with the approaching cold, they stay on the bush all year round. Brown leaves are therefore not planned by nature in autumn, but are a clear sign that something is wrong. Brown coloring is also to be understood as a warning. If this warning is not heeded, the damage can escalate, even to the point where the plant dies.

Can the camellia be saved?

A brown leaf rarely stays alone. Especially with a large camellia bush, many leaves can quickly be affected by the brown colouration. Whether the growth can still be saved depends on how quickly you act.
The brown color is always to be understood as a request to immediately review all care measures and the current location. Leaf diseases are more likely to show up with dried shoot tips and other symptoms, they are unlikely to be the cause of brown leaves.

tip: Do not cut off bare branches immediately. As soon as the plant has recovered, it can certainly sprout new leaves.

Claims of camellia

Every owner of a plant wants it to thrive and delight him with its flowers. Therefore, it is unlikely that anyone will intentionally harm a camellia and make it ill. So when care mistakes are made, it is mostly due to ignorance about the optimal care, whereby the camellia also contributes its part to the problem with its sensitivity.
In order for you to discover maintenance errors and to be able to clearly identify a wrong location, you first need to know the target condition. Find out in detail what this plant wants and tolerates in this country. In a nutshell, these are:

  • a bright but sun-protected place
  • consistently moist soil without waterlogging
  • modestly dosed fertilizer

Possible maintenance errors

Don't wait too long to analyze the root cause, because the sooner you spot the faults, the quicker you can take corrective action and prevent the plant from turning brown and diseased. You should clarify the following points:

  • the site conditions
  • Watering behavior or waterlogging
  • supply of fertilizer
  • the age of the camellia plant

Any one of these points, taken individually, can cause brown leaves. However, it is not uncommon for this sensitive plant to have several circumstances that do not suit it. So don't stop investigating the cause as soon as you come across a discrepancy.

Wrong location

The camellia plant comes from Asia, where it is represented by more than 300 species. Green and black tea, among other things, is obtained from the tea tree plant, especially from the leaves of the Chinese camellia. The Japanese camellia, bot. Camellia Japonica, is a wild species popular as an ornamental shrub for its large flowers. This circumstance has also brought the Camellia Japonica to our latitudes, where the climatic conditions are harsher. Because of this, this plant is rarely continuously cultivated outdoors. However, if it stays there, direct sun can harm it and make it sick.

  • Sunburn is a possible cause of tanning
  • Plant must not be exposed to direct sunlight
  • especially not immediately after hibernation
  • blazing midday sun is taboo

Measures against sunburn

The helpful measure against sunburn is obvious: the affected plant must continue to thrive in a shady place from now on. When cultivated in a tub, this measure can be implemented quickly and easily, provided an optimal location is available. Otherwise, a way must be found to shade the plant sufficiently:

  • for example with an awning or parasol
  • by placing larger plants and the like in front of them.

The plant is often buried in the garden together with the pot in the summer. In milder areas, good experiences have even been made with permanent planting. In these cases, the following measures will help:

  • shade in the first step
  • with an awning, a raffia mat, etc
  • in the second step, it must be transplanted
  • in a suitable place that is bright but not too sunny

If the plant spends the winter in the garden, the problem with the sun must not be neglected. In particular, the morning sun is not digestible for their leaves. In summer it tolerates a little more sun.

tip: When moving the plant, keep in mind that its light requirements are high. Otherwise, you may have to settle for a more modest flower.


Hardly any plant tolerates permanent waterlogging. However, some owners are so generous with watering as if they only had marsh plants in front of them. Too wet soil will stain the foliage of this plant. Check with your finger whether the soil is soaked. If so, you should never continue to use the watering can in the same way as before:

  • Stop pouring for now
  • the earth should dry out first
  • then water less
  • only when the top layer of soil has dried out
  • Always pour the water out of the coaster

In this context, also check whether the excess irrigation water can drain off well at all.

  • there must be sufficient drainage holes
  • a drainage layer is helpful

When the potting soil is so soggy, simply waiting for it to dry won't help. Immediately remove the wet soil by transplanting the plant into new soil. You can immediately pay attention to permeable soil and a suitable pot.

tip: Waterlogging often promotes leaf diseases and pests. Therefore, check your plant thoroughly for aphids and scale insects or for signs of a fungal disease.

Oversupply of fertilizer

If you supply your specimen with a commercially available flower fertilizer at regular intervals and observe the manufacturer's instructions, you will certainly believe that you are on the safe side. Nevertheless, it is possible that there is an overdose. In fact, the recommendations for the camellia plant are to halve the dose recommended on the packaging.

Measures in case of over-fertilization

If you have been taking too good care of your Camilla Japonica for a long period of time, it may be necessary to completely replace the old substrate with new. When repotting, rinse the root ball thoroughly under lukewarm water to remove any fertilizer residue. After this rescue, be sure to consider the modest nutrient requirements to keep new brown leaves from showing:

  • only fertilize from March to August
  • every 14 days
  • Do not fertilize after bud formation
  • use less fertilizer than recommended on the packaging
  • halving the amount is fine
  • a nitrogenous rhododendron fertilizer is ideal

Obsolescence and "blade wear"

Just as humans shed a few hairs with age, the camellia turns part of its foliage brown every 2-3 years and then lets it fall to the ground. Luckily she has some new leaves. There is no remedy against the aging of the plant and so the brown leaves on the old plant simply have to be accepted.

  • remove leaves that easily peel off
  • collect fallen specimens in good time
  • this prevents rot in the root area

If more than 1/3 of the foliage is affected and buds are also drying up, you should also look for other possible causes.

leaf diseases

As soon as a plant shows brown leaves, the obvious guess for many owners is that a leaf disease is at work. In fact, the camellia is less susceptible to diseases and pests are also rather rare visitors.
However, if the care is not optimal and the wrong hibernation, the plant can also become ill. But this is different than the brown coloring of the leaves. Common symptoms are:

  • leaf spot
  • leaf damage
  • sticky plaque
  • rotting flowers etc.

If such signs appear, it is not enough just to look for the care mistakes. Find out what made the plant sick and take countermeasures promptly.

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