Q. I have older camellia plants that produce plenty of flower buds but they fail to open. The plants form flower buds but many of the buds never open. I’ve seen this happen over the years but I’m not sure why it happens. I’ve wondered about cold injury but could it be that consistent every year? The plants, otherwise, look healthy. Do you have any ideas or can you suggest a source for help with this problem?
A. If these camellia cultivars are otherwise known to do well in the area, the problem could be:
- Stress – Primarily drought stress could inhibit buds from opening.
- Too many buds on a plant results in the plant not having reserves for each bud to open.
- Warm weather during fall may inhibit early blooming varieties from flowering properly.
- Freeze damage – Most of our camellia japonica cultivars produce flower buds and bloom during the winter. As the flower buds begin to swell, and particularly as they begin to open, the flower buds become more susceptible to freeze injury. Freeze injured flower buds fail to open. Also, those plants located in colder areas of the landscape will be more susceptible to cold injury. Camellia sasanqua cultivars are less likely to experience cold injury to their flower buds because they bloom mostly during fall and early winter when we are less likely to experience freezing temperatures.
The early freeze that occurred during mid November 2014 and the more recent freeze that occurred in early January 2015 may be responsible for some of the camellia flower bud injury on earlier and later blooming camellia plants here in North Florida this season.
Another situation may have to do with the specific variety. Thirty plus years ago people planted any camellia they could find because there was a more limited selection. Even though camellias have been part of our southern landscapes for many years, they are native to parts of Asia. Over the years there have been more introductions of cultivars. Some are not well adapted to our colder winters. You’d be wise to select cultivars that are known to do well in our area.
Some camellia cultivars are not well adapted to the Gulf Coast and thus won’t flower well even though they may grow well here. This is why some varieties are favored in Seattle, some do better in England and others perform well here.
For more information on camellias, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County or visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep002 to access the publication, “Camellias at a Glance.”
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, January 15, 2015