Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.
Q: I am really worried about my camellias. They used to have a shade tree over them and they did so well. (That tree is now gone.) It protected them from the sun and the horrific winds that I am willing to bet are worse than Chicago. They have no protection at all and get the hot sun all day. They also get horrendous winds from every direction. Not even between the houses would be safe.
They are planted on a sloping hill so the drainage is excellent. I also feed them as needed. They still produce beautiful flowers but their leaf appearance worries me. Every leaf is sun- and wind-burned. The leaves are bleached. Do I have to remove them and plant something different? Will the leaves fall off and be replaced? An awning will only protect from the sun – not the wind. I love camellias and this breaks my heart!
Sue Bear, Citrus Heights
Camellia expert Don Lesmeister: This lady has pretty well identified that the main problem is the camellias are suffering from sun exposure.
Camellias prefer filtered sun the entire day. They can thrive in full sun until 1 p.m. or so, but the evening sun can be lethal.
My suggestion is to build some type of structure, even if only temporary, over the plants, and cover the top and possibly one or two sides with shade cloth to protect the plants from the sun.
A frame made of 3/4 -inch PVC pipe covered with 50 percent shade cloth should correct the sunburn problem. Both products are available at either Home Depot, Lowe’s or Green Acres at a reasonable price.
This project should be accomplished quickly, especially because of the current warm weather.
With the Antelope Road/I-80 location, the wind may be a periodic inconvenience; it should not be an overall problem that affects camellias.
If transplanting the plants is a serious consideration, the summer is the worst possible time to do so. The plants should be dormant; November through January are the best months.
During transplanting, care should be given to not destroying the feeder roots. Those are the top couple of inches of the plant’s roots.
Adding some shade should correct the problem, but it may take another growing cycle before the leaves are back to their normal color.
Don Lesmeister of the Sacramento Camellia Society is a longtime camellia grower and co-chairman of the Sacramento Camellia Show.
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