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What Leaves Can Tell You About A Plant’s Health

Not long ago I mentioned that I was having troubles with my Camellia sasanqua plant and how its leaves were turning a spotty brown. Although I asked for suggestions as to what it could be and how I might fix it not many were offered.


So, because I love my Camellia so much (kind of like another child) I went off in search of a solution. A friend of mine, who regularly comments on my garden, was perusing with interest when I showed her my sad Camellia plant

To my amazement she informed me of her agricultural science degree and then continued sharing her font of knowledge as I began picking my jaw up from the ground.

3 Main Causes of Plant Health Problems

Causes of Plant Health Problems

Here’s what I learned: There are 3 main causes of plant problems and each of them can be read via their leaves. First, it could be a virus. Second, it could be bacterial and third, it could be fungal. Here’s how to tell what plant leaf problem you may have;

  • Viral – Take a cutting and place it in a glass of water. If the water doesn’t change colour then this is the problem.
  • Bacterial – Same as with the viral, take a cutting to include the plant leaf and leave it in a glass of water. If the water becomes cloudy or milky then it is a bacteria problem.
  • Fungal – Check the plant leaf and if it has hairs growing on it then it is a fungal disease.

There were no hairs on my Camellia leaves so I could safely rule out the problem being fungal. So I took a cutting and left it in a glass of water overnight – the result: clear water. Great. This means my Camellia has a viral disease for which there is no cure.

Just like a human with a virus there is little you can do other than pamper, nurture and rest them. The bottom half of the camellia is still strong and its leaves are dark green as they should be so it will probably be able to fight back of its own accord.

Now that my friend had helped me diagnose my camellia I was ready to rid my garden of some of its other problems.

My lime tree has been suffering for some time and although it has a ton of fruit blossoming the leaves have all turned light green while the veins have stayed their original colour. She lent me a book on “Diagnosing Deficiencies in Plants” and I was able to deduce that my lime tree is lacking in either iron or manganese. So I plan to rectify that this weekend and will let you know how it comes along.

Last Updated on September 22, 2023

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About the author 

Nathan Schwartz

Hey, I'm Nathan Schwartz, team member at Aussie Green Thumb since 2020. I have a passion for edible plants and Australian native plants, both in the garden and in the Aussie bush.

As an avid traveller and camper, I love seeing the different landscapes and flora that Australia has to offer, and try to incorporate this into my own daily living.

Whether I am living on the road, in an apartment or have a big backyard working with practical and usable gardens in small spaces is my specialty.

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