Why are my Camellia flowers turning brown?

You have been waiting the best part of a year and your beloved camellia has never looked healthier. It's been mulched, watered with collected rain and so far has avoided the dreaded bud drop. So why is it that after all the love and attention that has been bestowed the flowers on your camellia are still going brown? Is it a fungal disease, or worse still a bacterial infection? Well the good news is that it is neither. The problem is weather related.

Why are my Camellia flowers going brown?
In their native habitat of east and southeast Asia, camellias do not experience late frosts. Unlike us they are blessed with a climate that steadily warms up in the spring with no surprising changes in the weather. The camellia uses day lengths and temperatures to time its flowering initiation, a system which works fine in its native environment, but in northern European climates it has yet to evolve a system which delays its flowering period until a more clement time of year.

The brown marks that appear on the flowers are created by cell death within the petals. This is caused when wet petals are frozen. This damage can be further compounded by the effects of early morning sunshine following a frost.

Aside from purchasing camellia cultivars that will naturally bloom later on in the season you have just the two choices. The first is to move your camellia to a north or west facing site. Of course it will grow stronger and produce more flowers in a sunny site but unless you can provide some overhead shade from a higher canopy of trees it is not advisable.

The second choice is to grow your camellias in containers and bring them in undercover prior to flowering. That way your camellia flowers will be nothing less than perfect year after year.

For related articles click onto the following links:
Camellia japonica 'Black Lace'
Camellia 'Royalty'

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