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Azaleas and Camellias

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Azaleas and Camellias enjoy the partial shade and acid based soil culture. When both plants are in bloom, they are in a dormant stage, making this optimum time for transplanting.

LOCATION- Camellias and Azaleas prefer locations with good light, but need protection from strong, direct sun and from forceful, drying winds.

PLANTING- When planting Azaleas and Camellias in the ground or in a pot, we recommend using 100% Bandini Azalea Mix. When planting in the ground, dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball. The top of the root mass should be 2 inches above the soil level at the time of planting.

WATERING -Azaleas and Camellias need a soil that is moist, but not soggy, throughout the year. They are not deep-rooted. Make sure the entire shallow root zone is moistened when watering.Check the soil with your finger to determine how deeply any water has penetrated. Generally a deep soaking once a week is sufficient. Use an irrigation basin around each plant -slow deep soaking or low sprinklers to cover ground beneath the plant. Avoid overhead watering as wet flowers finish much faster.


Azaleas -Mir Acid -4 fee dings a year -spaced from March through September. Roger's Soil Activator every 2 months. Never fertilize an Azalea when leaves show a yellow or paleness between the veins. This is usually caused by a lack of available iron. Treat with a chelated iron product until foliage becomes green.

Camellias- Mir Acid -April, June, and August. Roger's Soil Activator every 2 months.

PRUNING- Prune Azaleas any time of the year, removing weak or dead wood and whatever trimming is required to keep plants shapely. One good pinching or pruning of new spring growth in July will create more branches and bushiness for fall bud setting.

To promote bushiness in Camellias, cut out last year's growth to the annual growth scar and several branches will start below the cut. For height, no pruning is necessary.


Camellias -Treat aphids with Orthene. If affected with yellow mottle (irregular splotches (f various sizes), discard plant to prevent spreading. Root rot (brown leaves) can be cleaned up by reducing the water and trimming off damaged foliage. If too many buds appear, flower production is automatically reduced. To prevent this, simply pinch off all but one or two buds at each terminal end.

Azaleas- Thrips (silvery foliage and leaf drop) can be cured with Orthene. Root weevils (chewed leaf edges) can be cured by drenching the soil and spraying the leaves with Orthene. Chlorosis (caused by alkaline soil, lack of iron and overwatering) can be treated with chelate iron. Azalea blight exhibited by wilted foliage and brown leaves, can be treated with Benomyl spray.

PEST PROFILE - Preventing Camellia Problems

Too often lumped together with far-touchier Azaleas, Camellias (varieties of both C. japonica and c. sasanqua) are quite adaptable and very satisfying landscape plants for Southern California. In fact, old, established Camellias survive with minimal water and care, some even in full sun. Few pathogenic diseases pose serious threats - with Phytophthora root rot being the outstanding exception. Several non-pathogenic (physiological) diseases can be problems; all are easily avoided through good planting and cultural practices. 

Symptoms and Causes

Lack of vigor, and dieback of twigs and branches are signs of root rot; the problem merits immediate attention.

Camellia petal (flower) blight is blamed every time a flower rots or a petal edge turns brown. However. most often the cause is wind or sun exposure -or accumulation of irrigation or rain water in the flower bud. To confirm the presence of blight: Look for brown veins running up the petals. Bud drop can be natural: many varieties routinely produce more flower buds than they can support. It can also result from uneven watering (esp. drought stress in conjunction with hot, dry winds) or overfertilizing.

Excessive leaf drop of leaves with burned edges. Corky spots or scorched areas can also be traced to overfeeding. Buildup of fertilizer and salts in the soil can result in burned leaves and poor growth.

Yellow leaves with green veins indicate a lack of iron. If condition persists, even with added iron, early stages of root rot should be suspected.

Sunburn (heat necrosis) appears as burned or yellow patches on the tops of leaves and is more common on south or west-facing foliage. Frequently, damage occurs after overhanging trees are pruned. exposing previously-protected foliage to strong sun. An early spring heat wave can also burn soft, new growth.

Management Techniques

Choose a planting site with good drainage and some protection from hot sun and dry winds. 

Amend the soil with plenty of organic matter; use your own compost, commercial planting mixes, or try leaf mold and redwood compost.

Mulch well (2-3' deep); be sure that no soil or mulch becomes mounded up around the trunk or base of the plant.

Avoid extremes in soil moisture: neither bone dry, nor constantly soggy will do. Both conditions encourage root rot and other diseases.

Fertilize prudently and only during the growing season (after flowering -September}. To avoid fertilizer burn: water well before feeding; cut recommended amount in half and apply twice as often. Supplement with chelated iron, as needed.

Leach occasionally, drenching soil several times in one day. This will wash accumulated salts and fertilizer down below the root system. Leach twice during the summer months; leach container plants once per month.

Prune overhanging trees and shrubs during cool periods to avoid sunburn.

Soil drenches with Subdue (metalaxyl, a chemical fungicide} provide effective control for Phytophthora, but must be repeated indefinitely. unless watering and mulching practices are improved.

Just to be on the safe side, clean up fallen flowers and petals (every day Is good) to prevent Camellia petal blight.

All gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so. Joseph Joubert
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