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Black deposit on container-grown camellia

Hi - I have a camellia in a large patio pot. A lot of the leaves are covered in a dry, black sooty-looking deposit. Does anyone know what this could be?

Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Without a photo, I'm going to go for the most likely "usual suspect": sooty mold.

If you've had aphid, scale, or mealybug attacks on this camellia, sooty mold is a likely follow-up ailment. My Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control (Ellis & Bradley) recommends using warm soapy water on the leaves and then thorough rinsing.

Depending on how large the plant is and how recently you might have applied soap spray (I usually recommend a very dilute solution of 1 tsp/5 mL liquid SOAP to 1 quart/L of water), perhaps using cotton balls with plain warm water to wipe the sooty mold off will give you a good start on combating this ugly fungus.

Good air circulation will help the plant fend off further attacks, but is not a guarantee so long as aphids/mealybugs/scale can get to it. Ants will "farm" aphids for their sticky secretions ("honeydew"), so ant prevention will also be needed.

But let's look at the presumed sooty mold first. :D

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Hi Cynthia, thank you for your help. As it's a warm sunny day here in Newport, UK, I'm donning the rubber gloves & going out to wash my plant! Hope you enoy your day. :)

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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

You might follow up the "wash and rinse cycle" with 10% solution milk spray - 1 part milk to 10(~8) part rain or filtered water (avoid using chlorinated water or hard water). Boiled cooled tap water or tap water left in open container for 24~48 hours works as well. The milk spray acts as fungus preventive/mild fungicide.

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