Camellia Growing Guide
Flowering camellias such as Camellia japonica, Camellia sasanqua, Camellia reticulata and hybrids. Other camellias include Camellia oleifera (oil seed camellia), and Camellia sinensis (tea plant)
Crop Rotation Group
Moist, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost or other organic matter, with a slightly acidic pH. Camellias cannot take up nutrients properly in alkaline soil.
Part shade. In climates with frequent freezes in winter, camellias need a sheltered location near a building or wall.
Cold tolerance varies with cultivar, with some newer selections hardy to -5°F (-21°C). Chinese strains of tea plants tolerate cold to 5°F (-15°C), but strains from India do better with a warmer climate.
Boosting soil fertility results in bigger, better camellia flowers. Feed in spring and late summer with a shrub fertilizer blended for acid-loving plants. Keep the root zone mulched with an organic mulch year-round.
Single Plants: 3' 3" (1.00m) each way (minimum)
Rows: 3' 3" (1.00m) with 3' 3" (1.00m) row gap (minimum)
Sow and Plant
Camellias do not breed true from seed, so it is best to set out purchased plants in spring or early summer. Amend the planting hole with plenty of compost, leaf mold, or other acidic organic matter. Set the root ball high, so it is barely covered with soil. Many camellias are grafted, so make sure the wrinkled graft union is well above the soil line. Water regularly, and cover the root zone with an organic mulch to keep the soil lightly moist at all times. Spacing requirements vary according to the type grown. Camellias are typically grown as single specimen plants. Check plant tags for a plant’s mature width. Many dwarf camellias can be grown in 14-inch (35 cm) pots for a year, after which the roots will need more room.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalized calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.
Evergreen and long-lived, camellias are among the few flowers that bloom in winter. Visit local display gardens to learn about the best camellias for your area. If you admire camellias growing in neighbors’ yards, check with local garden centers for matching plants. Take your time making choices, because camellias are large, long-lived shrubs that will be with you for many years. Camellias need very little pruning. In early spring, remove broken branches along with any that show evidence of disease.
Rather than displaying them in an upright vase, enjoy cut camellia blossoms floated in a shallow dish of water. At room temperature, blossoms will last several days. If you are trying your luck with a tea plant, harvest some leaves young, as green tea, in early summer. Fully ripened tea leaves are gathered in late summer.
Camellias that are well sited and regularly fed have few problems with disease. Stresses related to drought or poor nutrition can take their toll on young plants, so be prepared to water and mulch them as needed.
Planting and Harvesting Calendar
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Pests which Affect Camellia