Camellia problem

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Camellia problem

Post  coh on Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:05 pm

Hello all...this is one of my first posts. I've been a member for a few months and have learned quite a bit. I'm a beginner at bonsai, though I've been growing plants all my life. Had an extensive orchid collection at one time. Currently living in western NY.

I have a problem with a camellia sasanqua 'yuletide'. Maybe someone can offer some recommendations.

This was a plant that was worked on as part of the beginning bonsai class at the International Bonsai Arboretum in the fall (October). Started as nursery stock in a 1-gal pot. We worked it extensively - top and root pruning, wiring, finally potting into a bonsai pot. Wrong time of year, certainly, but that's when the class was held. We were advised to keep the plants indoors for the first winter to recover from all the abuse. Honestly, with the amount of root removed, I didn't expect it to survive. But it did...there were even a few flower buds left and they bloomed in late November.

Lately, the plant is looking worse...older leaves are (very) slowly yellowing and dropping. Younger leaves have developed an ugly mottled appearance. Both can be seen in the photos. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the plant when I first got it, but I don't remember the leaves looking like this.

I'm keeping it under flourescent lights (sunlight when we get it), temps 50-55 at night, 65-75 by day. Using a weak mix of acid fertilizer every 2 weeks. I suspect I may have overwatered and am tempted to unpot and examine the roots, and possibly place back into a nursery pot. Not sure if I should do that now or wait until spring. Another thought is to just place it into cool storage (35-45 deg) to give it a rest until spring. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! There are healthy looking vegetative buds on all the branches.

Chris



(on the following image, one of the leaves has pen lines where I outlined the dark green area a couple of weeks ago, to see if any changes were occurring...none so far)




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Camellia problem

Post  Guest on Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:49 pm

Hello Chris. Have you been feeding at all?

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Randy_Davis on Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:53 pm

will baddeley wrote:Hello Chris. Have you been feeding at all?


Sure looks like Ferterlizer burn to me!

Randy

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:28 pm

I've been using a weak dose of miracid every 2 weeks...don't have the exact ratio, but much weaker than anything suggested on the package...and have been flushing the pot with plain water (when it appears dry) in between. Perhaps I should not be using any fertilizer right now, but what's done is done. What would you recommend at this point? As I said, I have a lot of experience growing plants both in ground and in pots, but NOT in small bonsai pots with essentially "soil-less" planting medium. It's a new experience for me.

A couple of other plants from the course - both tropicals (brush cherry and jaboticaba) are growing very well with essentially the same treatment.

Chris

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Mark on Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:41 pm

Chris,
Stop fertilizing completely now.
Do NOT move it to cold storage now.
Allow the tree a chance to recover, do NOT take it out of the pot to check the roots.
Allow the soil to get close to dry before watering throughly.
Water the whole tree in the kitchen sink with the sprayer until the water runs freely through the drain holes.
Continue this until the tree recovers.

You should never start fertilizing this tree going into winter and especially one you have done major root pruning on.
I have been growing a Sasanqua Camelia in Upstate New York for about 15 years. It spends December through April-May inside and gets watered every other day to every day depending on how the soil is.
For the last 5 years it has been in Kanuma soil and likes it. I will start to fertilize a little starting this week.
I stopped fertilizing it in early October.

Mark

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:51 pm

Thanks for your suggestions, Mark. I do water until water flows freely out of the pot, but will withold all fertilizer for the time being. I didn't start fertilizing until the plant bloomed (more than a month after working on it at the class), thinking that it might be entering a growing phase after blooming. I think it was starting to look pale even before I applied fertilizer, which is why I was thinking I may have damaged the roots by overwatering earlier on. I will admit to having some difficulty judging the overall dryness of the soil in these heavy pots.

Glad to hear of your success with a similar camellia in the upstate climate.

Chris

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:50 pm

Two things strike me in the photo. Is that Osmocote on the surface? and moss. Maybe too wet and the soil not draining well. Healthy moss looks cool but is frequently the sign of too much water.

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:11 pm

Nope, no osmocote...it's just the clay portion (similar to turface) of the mix. The patches of moss are barely green (may appear more green in the photo than IRL), not exactly thriving...I could remove it, as it really doesn't seem to be serving any useful purpose at this stage. It was put on during the potting process.

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Russell Coker on Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:35 pm

Hey Chris.

Yikes, that's one sad looking little yuletide you got there! First, I'd listen to Mark. If he's been doing it successfully for as long as he's been where he is - well, god love him. Probably easier to grow sasanquas and camellias on Mars.

I think the root of your problems comes from, well, the roots. Like you said, probably too much all at once. I've seen discoloration like this before and that's where it usually starts. I think that this one will recover with time. It's young enough to forgive you. I wouldn't have done that until after it flowered, or here during the mid summer dormancy. Believe it or not, mid summer is the ideal time to dig/repot camellias and sasanquas here on the Gulf Coast. I'm going digging soon, it's just too damn hot in mid July for that.

Good luck, keep us posted.

R

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:50 pm

Thanks Russell, will keep you posted regarding the outcome.

I lived in Virginia for about 6 years, so I'm familiar with camellias as landscape plants...but have never grown one in a container.

Chris

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Russell Coker on Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:39 pm

I don't know how you handle that winter. After 3 winters in Japan walking across a frozen koi pond and with snow up to my knees at times, I vowed I'd never live anywhere that I couldn't walk out into my garden and pick camellia flowers all winter long!

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Tue Feb 01, 2011 8:47 pm

I hear you! After spending many years in college/grad school in Albany NY, my wife and I moved to Maryland for 5 years, then Virginia for 5 years. I never thought - or wanted - to come back north. But life intervened, and my wife's job brought us back. I actually like winter, it's beautiful...but I do get tired of it by about mid February.

Here are a couple of winter pics I've taken this past month...just for the warm climate people! Hopefully I'm not breaking any rules by posting non-bonsai images.

Snow-covered boulders and snow clouds, Lake Ontario shoreline


Fresh snow on trees


Frozen sunset

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Camellia problem follow-up: seems to be on the road to recovery

Post  coh on Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:47 pm

I wanted to post a follow-up message regarding the camellia discussed in the original post. It seems to be on the road to recovery. The old mottled foliage has greened up considerably, and extensive new growth is occurring - both from the existing vegetative buds and also from other random locations along the trunk and branches. I'm cautiously optimistic for the future.

Photos of the same leaves as in the original post (but different viewing angles):



You can still see the original pen line outlining the edge of the mottled area...there is still some color difference but much reduced.

I basically followed Mark's advice. Stopped fertilizing for a month or two (though I did spray the foliage with weak fertilizer and chelated iron on occasion). Didn't touch the roots. Got it outside as soon as the weather permitted. Applied some micronutrients to the soil when it went outside.The leaves continued to get more yellow until it got outside, but it has been gradually greening up since then. New growth didn't start until the past couple of weeks, but it looks strong.

Now that it's growing I do have some questions for anyone with experience growing camellia: At what stage do you recommend wiring? There was one (new) branch growing off the trunk that I think will probably be used as a "sacrifice" - I wanted to bend it out of the way of another branch but it snapped at the base. Didn't come off completely so I wired it back in place and applied some sealant, but don't know if it will make it. So now I'm not sure whether I should leave the others alone until they harden off a bit. What is your experience? Also, do camellias make only one flush of growth per season? If I trim a new shoot will it bud/grow this season or not until next year?

BTW, here is a recent photo of the tree.


Thanks for the help!

Chris

edited to add: height above top of pot 16", width of "canopy" 18", trunk base 3/4"



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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Russell Coker on Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:47 pm

Hey Chris!

Nice to finally see a picture. Glad to hear you've turned this one around.

The new growth on the trunks of camellias and sasanquas is a lot like azaleas. It tends to grow straight up off the trunk. If you don't wait for that to harden before you try to wire or even bend it down, it will just pop off in your hand. Once they are woodier you can safely work them, BUT you can't let them go too long either. It may be difficult, especially with a sasanqua as upright as Yuletide, to ever have downward sweeping branches, or even horizontal branches, but I think yours looks good. My shi-shis that I showed grow differently and I don't think you'd ever be able to do that with Yuletide. In a way, you work camellias and sasanquas the way you would an azalea, but maybe not quite as a severe pine tree shape. I like to work with the natural movement and rhythem of the trunk and branches - but I'm starting with older and larger material than you have.

I think your sacrifice branch will probably be ok, and that should tell you that while they are fleshy and shiny don't mess with them. As far as the amount of growth, all I can tell you is what happens here. I have no idea how this will translate to your growing season. So, for me, there is a really strong push in the spring just like with everything else. On my shi-shis I'll get shoots of growth with flower buds set at the ends. This growth hardens and the plants go into a mid-summer dormancy. July to mid/late August is actually the best time to dig camellias and podocarpus, as well as repot here on the coast. Most people would think January/February, but that's not the case here. In late summer/early fall they wake up and push again, but it's lighter and doesn't include flower bud set.

R

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Russell Coker on Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:32 am

Forgot to mention, keep an eye on that wire, especially after a lot of rain. Also, did it set any buds for you?

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:41 pm

Thanks Russell, lots of good info there! And I did have to remove a wire that was cutting in already.

No flower buds yet. The new growth has really just started within the past couple of weeks, and some of the shoots haven't even opened leaves yet (but they are swelling). I expect that once the plant gets "settled" in it will start its seasonal growth much earlier (I believe Mark's camellia starts growing in May). I might remove any flower buds that form this season, but that will depend on how the plant looks going into the winter. It did manage to open a couple of flowers last November - we left a few buds on just to see what they looked like:


This was always one of my favorite camellias when I lived in Virginia, so I'm hoping to get this one healthy and keep it for a long time.

Interesting observation/comparison about the "shi-shi's". One of my plant guides states that the shi-shi's were actually considered to be sasanquas until recently, so there must be a fair amount of similarity?

Chris

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:54 pm

Since I'm doing some end-of-season organizing/photographing, I figured I'd post a little update on the camellia. It's doing well...a fair amount of healthy new growth was produced this summer. I trimmed back some of the longer extensions and wired (don't look too closely, yes there are crossed wires Shocked ). Didn't get too aggressive with the trimming or bending yet, I'm more concerned with just maintaining the health/vigor for now. Hopefully I'll get stronger growth next year (and it may well go into a larger training pot). I believe it has 2 flower buds which I'll probably allow to bloom. Feel free to offer suggestions for modifications if you're so inclined! Yes, I'll be removing a lot of that moss before it goes into winter storage...

Front will probably be one of these two views (or something close):





View from above to see the 3-d structure. Will be putting more movement into those branches through bending and trimming.


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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Russell Coker on Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:20 am

Looks like you're on the right track to me, Chris. I do think it should be in a much larger growing pot though, and really pump ther fertilizer to it especially in the early spring/summer. 'Yuletide' is a very upright sasanqua. I've never worked with it or any others with that kind of growth. I'm eager to see what happens when you remove the wire.

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:35 pm

Hey Russell, I meant to reply but somehow missed it. This is the second wiring for this tree. When the first set of wire came off, there was a definite tendency for some of the thicker, lower branches to want to lift up - especially the one on the right. If you look closely you can see that was bent pretty strongly near the trunk. It has held reasonably well, though, so I'm optimistic. The smaller branches pretty much stayed where they were put, but all the new shoots tend to grow strongly upward.

Chris

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Camellia update, December 2012

Post  coh on Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:13 pm

My yuletide camellia has made it through 2 years now, so I figured I'd post a quick update.

I had some problems late last winter/early spring with leaves turning brown and dropping. The plant lost a lot of leaves. Still not sure what was going on - some thought it might be a fungal problem, but I suspect that I let the plant get too dry while it was in winter storage. In any event, the plant responded with strong growth early in the spring. I figured I might be able to get a second growth spurt later in the summer, so I cut the new growth back pretty hard. Despite the long, warm summer we had, the plant did not produce a second growth flush. It did set a lot of flower buds late in the summer, but most of those dropped, leaving 4. Two of those opened around Thanksgiving, one is now open, and the final bud is starting to expand. I think I may have let the plant get too dry again while the buds were setting. Still learning to control watering.

I took Russell's advice and repotted into a slightly larger mica pot this spring. Roots were OK. Later in the summer I added some kanuma to the top layer of soil (that's the white stuff you see) in an attempt to acidify the soil. At the next repot I'm going to mix kanuma in, as a local grower has had better results since he switched to kanuma.

One thing I've noticed is that the growth seems stronger on the lower branches, and it's been a struggle so far to get much development in the apex. Is this typical of camellias?

Anyway, here are a few photos. Not much change from last year because of the hard pruning I did. I haven't yet wired the growth from last season so the branch tips have lifted up. Will take care of that before new growth starts in the spring.

Comments or suggestions are welcome!

Chris

1. Front view, black background


2. Front view, white background


3. View from above


4. Flower close up

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  Russell Coker on Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:14 pm

coh wrote: One thing I've noticed is that the growth seems stronger on the lower branches, and it's been a struggle so far to get much development in the apex. Is this typical of camellias?


Looking good! 'Yuletide' is a fastigiated sasanqua, but it doesn't grow with a central leader. You may find that you have to guy wire those branches down rather than using conventional wiring. And, fwiw, I'd NEVER use copper on something as thin-barked as a camellia (or azalea, or maple, or crape myrtle, or...), but that's just me.

As for the thin top, it's not what I would have expected. Watch the lower growth and fertilize the hell out of it. They are always happier once the wire is removed.

R

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Re: Camellia problem

Post  coh on Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:50 pm

Russell,

Thanks for the wire tip. I haven't noticed any problems using copper on this...well, except where I left the wire on too long. Will experiment with aluminum next time.

The main branches have held pretty well when the wire is removed...it's mainly the new growth tips (that were never wired) that have bent upward. Will use guy wires where appropriate/necessary.

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Re: Camellia problem

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