Many gardeners have had a case of bad sunburn at one time or another in their lives, but the condition can also affect camellias as well. Usually this condition occurs during the most extremely hot days of summer when the sun is high in the sky and the sun's rays are most intense. Many camellias can be grown in full sun or mostly sun conditions.
When camellias are established in sunny conditions, their new growth slowly acclimates to the sun's intensity as the seasons progress. However, if a camellia grown in a shaded environment is suddenly exposed to an intense sunny location during the hot summer, sunburn will likely occur quickly.
This can happen with plants grown in the shade that are moved to the sun. It can also happen if you prune or remove an overhead tree. It can also happen if parts of the camellia is removed through pruning that shades other parts of the plant.
The plant above was growing in full sun then heavily pruned. The former shaded leaves are now exposed to sun and burn.
So what can we learn from all this? Remember to not plant camellias in full sun or mostly sun conditions during the hot days of summer if possible. Sunburn can occur any time of year, but planting them when it is cooler and the sun is less intense will minimize the problem of sunburn. We have seen camellias that are not acclimated to their environments burn even in the winter months.
Even if you get severe sunburn on your camellias, do not be too concerned. The plants will likely drop most of the damaged leaves as new growth emerges to replace them. Sunburn happens, but minimizing it keeps your camellias looking good in the garden.