Growing Camellia Plants:
How to Grow the Camellia Plant Organically

Camellia plants are flowering shrubs that display early blooms in your garden. They conjure up images of Alice in Wonderland or romantic Japanese Tea Gardens and work well as single specimen plants or colorful editions to complex planting schemes. They are easy to care for once established.

Growing Camellias: Plant Snapshot

Growing Camellia Plants
  • Camellia (Camellia Japonica)
  • Annual or perennial? Perennial
  • Recommended varieties (by color):
    • Deep pink: Adolphe Audusson, Alexander Hunter, Apollo, Elegans
    • Pale pink: Ave Maria, Bernice Boddy
    • Red: Aaron’s Ruby, Black Magic
      White: Angel, Hagoromo, Tsai
  • Recommended USDA Hardiness zones: 7 to 9
  • Mature Height: 120 to 180 inches (300 to 450cm)
  • Mature Spread: 72 to 120 inches (180 to 300cm)
  • Sun Requirements: partial shade partial sun to full sun
  • Blooming season: Early spring, early winter, late fall, late winter, mid winter
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Growing Camellias: Planting the Seed, Transplanting and/or Root Division

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To transplant a started camellia plant, dig a hole that is three times as wide and slightly deeper than the root ball. The roots should be just below the soil surface. Choose a position that is protected from cold winds and will be partially shaded on winter mornings.

Growing a Camellia from seed to blooming plant is a difficult, though not impossible task. Do not dry camellia seeds. Plant them direct from harvest after soaking them for 12 hours to help them germinate.

A quicker way of propagation is to take leaf-bud cuttings. Fill a plant pot with potting compost. Choose semi-ripe shoots just as the shoot’s base is becoming woody. Cut the stem across just above a leaf. Leave about ¾ inch (2cm) of stem below and make another cut. After removing a ¼ inch of bark at the stem base push into the compost so the leaf sits just above the soil. Keep moist and over winter in a greenhouse or on a windowsill.

Camellias prefer a neutral to acidic garden soil pH. If your soil has a high lime content (alkaline), you may be more successful growing camellias in containers.

Snapshot: Planting Camellias

  • Germination soil temperature: 68 degrees F (20 C)
  • Distance between plants: About 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m)
  • Planting depth: 12 inches (30 cm)
  • Days to germination: 30 days
  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 4.5 to 5.5
  • Root division information (perennials only):
    • Root system type (clumping, spreading, rhizome or tuber): clumping
    • Roots division frequency: Plants do not need dividing
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Camellia Pruning & Care

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Camellias need regular watering, especially during late summer to prepare for the following year’s flowering season. If you live in a hard water area try to use rain water whenever possible.

Balance the shape of young plants by shortening the main growing stems. Overtime they form a beautifully shaped shrub and shouldn’t require any additional support. Once your camellia is established it will require little pruning. Clip lightly with secateurs after it has finished flowering.

Mulch 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8cm) in summer and spring with leaf mold or a mix of granular organic flower food and organic coffee grounds.

Deadhead throughout the flowering season.

Snapshot: Camellias Care

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Camellia Harvesting & Cutting

Camellia blooms last well in floral arrangements. Cut in the morning or evening, dropping straight into water to keep them at their best. Split the stem ends before putting into your vase or container.

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Camellia Diseases & Pests

Good plant hygiene will keep your Camellias pest- and disease-free. Avoid wounding stems by using sharp, clean shears for pruning and harvesting flowers. Inspect leaves for signs of discoloration or disease and remove any infected sections before viruses take hold. Rake leaves and flower blooms, covering with fresh mulch.

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Camellias (see Organic Garden Pest Control for information about how to prevent and address pests and diseases)...

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Armored scales
  • Black vine weevil
  • Fuller rose beetle
  • Gall mites
  • Glassy-winged sharpshooter
  • Mealybugs
  • Nematodes
  • Soft scales
  • Whiteflies

Diseases

  • Camellia petal and flower blight
  • Collar, foot and crown rots
  • Leaf gall
  • Sooty mold
  • Viruses
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