Gardening 101 Series | How to Plant & Maintain a Camellia
How to Care for Camellias
Camellias are an old-fashioned flower much beloved in many gardens. They come in a wide variety of colors and varieties that are hardy in USDA Zones 7-10. Once planted, it's important to tend them to ensure that they continue to bloom beautifully every year. Caring for your camellias includes proper feeding and watering, as well as proper pruning and maintenance.
Plant in light shade.This is a golden rule. Camellias do best in light shade that protects them from hot afternoon sun.This doesn't mean that they need total shade, just enough so that they don't bake in the sun.
- As a camellia grows, it can tolerate more sun. This is because a mature camellia will have a big canopy of leaves that will shade the roots and make sure they don't get too dried out by the sun.
- This also depends on what climate you are planting the camellia in. If you are in a climate that never gets very hot, then a camellia can cope with a spot with less shade.
Ensure your site has good drainage.Camellias can’t stand having “wet feet” and must have well-draining soil.
Keep camellias out of the path of wind.The more sheltered the camellia, the better the flowering will be. This is because the dehydration from winds any time of year can kill camellias, whether it be warm winds in the summer or cold winds in the winter.
- Try planting your camellia between 3 to 6 feet from your house. This will give it good protection from the wind.
- If you need to, erect a fence or trellis to divert direct wind away from your camellia plants.
- The lighter the flower color, the more protection from wind is needed.
Planting the camellia.Dig a hole that is two feet wider than the root ball of the plant. The hole should be just a bit deeper than the root ball in the center but a few inches deeper than than that around the edges. Keeping the hole shallow in the center will prevent the plant from sinking.Digging the hole deeper around the edges will give the plant's roots some looser soil to easily spread out into.
- Place the rootball in the hole, making sure the top is slightly above the soil level. It’s important to keep the rootball 2–4 inches (5.1–10 cm) above the soil line because camellias are sensitive to being planted too deeply.Fill the rest of the hole with a mixture of top soil and organic material.
- Press the dirt around the plant down so that it is firmly in place. Slope the dirt up the sides to meet the top of the rootball, but don’t cover the rootball with any soil.
- Then give the plant a deep watering. If the weather is dry, give a new plant a thorough watering every week until it is well established..
Caring For Camellias
Use deep watering.Camellias love deep watering about twice weekly, rather than daily shallow watering. This is partially because camellias love generally moist soil as opposed to soggy soil. Giving a deep soak allows the soil to have a generally moist consistency for longer.
Mulch around your camellia.Mulching will help keep moisture in the ground and it will keep the soil cooler on hot summer days. In addition, mulch will help keep weeds at bay.
- Use whatever mulch you have readily available but don't pile it more than a few inches high, no matter what you use. This can keep soil too wet and lead to root rot.
- Remember that the mulch should not touch the trunk of the plant.
- Mulch also adds new organic material to your soil. This will help to break up clay soil or add richness to sandy soil. In general, it will increase the quality of your top soil tremendously.
Apply a suitable fertilizer every spring.Some Camellias are considered heavy eaters, meaning that they need a lot of nutrients from the soil in order to thrive. This will ensure lush growth and good flowering each season.
- There are other varieties too, where the plant is not a heavy feeder, and do not react well to over-stimulation.
- Do not fertilize after August. Interestingly, their bloom time is also their dormant period and so should not be fertilized then.
- Cottonseed meal and fish emulsion are good natural choices. Two or three feedings between April 1 and September 1 is all that is necessary.
- Contact your local extension service or camellia experts to get recommendations of fertilizers that work well in your specific area and for your specific variety of the plant.
- Fertilizers usually have three numbers on them, which tells you about the nutrients in it. The first number is for nitrogen, the second number is for phosphorus, and the third number is for potassium.
- If you want your camellia to increase in size because it is newly planted, give it a fertilizer with a larger first number, such as 10 or 12.
- If you just want to maintain the size of an already established plant, then a lower first number, such as 4, will work well.
Don't overdo the acid.There is a common perception that camellias are acid loving. The reality is that camellias prefer slightly acidic conditions but they do not like very acidic conditions. If you've been overdoing the acidic fertilising, stop now!
- If you test your soil, it should have a ph between 5.5 and 6.8 to make a camellia happy.
- If you notice the leaves turning yellow, the camellia likely needs more acid in the soil. Re-pot with fresh potting soil formulated for acid-loving plants.
Look for infestations.
- Check the top and the underside of the leaves weekly for aphids and spider mites. When you spot an infestation, rinse off the insects with a strong stream of water.
- Check the woody stems for scale insects. Scale appears as raised welts that scrape off easily. Spray scale with a ready-mixed all-season horticultural oil.
Prune right after blooming.If you prune right after blooming then you will give the plant time to rejuvenate and grow new buds for the following spring. There is a good period of dormant time between when the plant blooms and when it starts to sprout new growth for you to do this.
- Pruning at other times of year will not kill a well-established plant. However, it will eliminate your buds for the following spring, so prune off season carefully.
Remove dead and dying growth.This will improve the overall health of the plant. Pruning reinvigorates the plant and decreases the chances of bug or disease infestations.
- To avoid the chance of disease entering the plant, cut branches flush to feeder branches, instead of leaving nubs.
Shape bushes to your liking.To begin with, remove leggy or lanky branches that stick out and don't look good. Then prune for general shape. Pruning should also be done to shape the plant so it fits into your landscape. This may mean a light or severe pruning, depending on the shape of the camellia and how long it has been left to grown untended.
- Severe pruning means removing one third to one half of the plant. This should be done without fear of losing the plant, as most camellias are very strong and will outlive those that planted them. However, the year following a severe pruning you will probably have fewer blooms, as the plant it focused on regrowing its branches and leaves.
- Light pruning can be done with small hand shears or larger shaping shears. You will get a cleaner look if you prune individual branches, as opposed to cutting large swaths with shaping shears.
QuestionMy camellia has never bloomed and is 7 yrs old. What am I doing wrong?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerIf your plant isn't blooming, it isn't happy. Check everything: make sure the soil is acidic enough (pH of 5.5-6.5), make sure you have adequate drainage (camellias hate to stand in water), make sure your camellia is in partial shade (too much sun can prevent flowering), check to see if there are any pests that need to be removed, give it some fresh compost, mulch, and acidic fertilizer every spring, and see if that helps.Thanks!
QuestionWhy are the flowers dropping off my camellias?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerDo you mean the buds, or the flowers? The flowers will drop after they have opened and run their course. It's normal. It's also normal to lose a few buds, but if you have a ton of buds dropping and no flowers opening up, it could be over- or under-watering or sudden cold temperatures. Take a look at http://www.monrovia.com/how-to-grow-camellias/ for some more information.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can be done for a healthy plant that is not flowering?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt may not be getting the proper nutrients. This could be in the form of minerals, or sunlight, either too little or too much. Get a soil test kit and make sure the soil surrounding the plant is appropriate for it. Fertilizer regularly with a balanced fertilizer.Thanks!
QuestionI have had my camellia in a pot, and it has become pot bound. Can I take trim some of the root ball to replant in another pot?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but the best time to do this would be spring. If you do repot and trim the root ball, make sure to prune the top of the plant back say 25-30 percent, too; otherwise, the roots would not be sufficient to support the plant.Thanks!
QuestionCan I re-pot my camellia?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust like with any plant, it could be a little risky. Their roots can bend and break. But, yes, it's possible.Thanks!
QuestionWhen can I transplant a camellia that's four years old?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is best to do it in the winter time, or at least to dig it then. Unless it is in a container, there will be some root damage, so you should prune the top to keep the root system in balance for less stress on the plant.Thanks!
QuestionWhy do the buds keep falling off?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDramatic weather changes can cause buds to fall off before they can even open. If the bud drops continue, try moving your camellia plant to a more appropriate place.Thanks!
QuestionWhy aren't my camellias blooming?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are many factors that can affect blooming, including weather, pests, inadequate sunlight, water levels and space to grow.Thanks!
QuestionMy camellia's leaves are falling out! What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake sure you're using acidic soil, not alkaline. I've had success with using sulphur to revive mine. You put it around the plants in small quantities over a period of three months.Thanks!
My friends camellia flowered well, but now on the end of some of the branches they have formed pods. Is this normal?
I planted 4 young Camellias in the spring. They are growing taller but as yet not getting bushy. Do I need to nip the top to make this happen?
What can I do about brown spots on the leaves of my plants since I've sprayed them and they don't seem like they come from bugs?
What do I do if there's black marks on my Camellia?
Why are the leaves of my camellia covered with brown spots? There is no evidence of aphids or spider mites. There is lots of yellowing on the leaves also.
||Some useful tips for ensuring beautiful camellias.|
To care for camellias, water them deeply twice a week so that the soil stays moist for longer periods of time. Additionally, mulch the ground around the base of the camellia to keep the ground moist and keep weeds away, making sure that the mulch isn’t actually touching the trunk in order to prevent root rot. Each spring, apply cottonseed meal to fertilize the plant, since camellias are heavy feeders and need a lot of nutrients. After the plant has bloomed, trim off any dead or dying branches to reinvigorate it and make it more resistant to disease.
Video: Growing And Pruning Camellias
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