Replacing Diseased Camellias

Q: We have many old camellias that need replacing. Lots of leaves have a yellow pattern that I believe is a virus. Do we need to replace the soil before planting substitutes? 

A: It sounds like your camellias have yellow mottle virus. This virus is spread by physical contact from budding, grafting, or pruning and possibly by insects like aphids, scale and whiteflies. It is almost never spread through the soil. Some say that camellia viruses cause little if any real damage to the plant. In fact, the virus may cause attractive blotches or streaks on the flowers. If you plant new ones, buy cutting tools to use specifically for them. Don’t use pruning tools on them that you have used on your virus-infected camellias. But be on the lookout for interesting flowers; you can root those branches and enjoy the blooms as the plant enlarges.

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