How to Plant Camellias in the Garden

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The camellia is a woody shrub which tends to bloom in the cooler months of fall through early spring. One of the things I love most about the shrub is how the dark glossy green leaf complements the colorful rose-shaped bloom. Camellia blooms range in a variety of colors, from whites, yellows, pinks, reds, and bicolored flowers, the blooms can reach up to five inches in diameter.

Camellia shrubs frequently grow five to seven feet wide and often reach about 15 feet tall. Since there are more than 300 different species of camellia, the exact size of your shrub will course will depend upon the exact variety of camellia you decide to plant. Although the shrubs can go relatively tall, they only grow about one foot a year.

Due to their dense foliage, landscapers often implement camellias into hedges, use them as anchoring plants, or even highlight them as a stand-alone shrub.

How to Plant Outside

Select a good planting location for your camellia shrub, they prefer to grow in a partially shaded to full-sun location with well-draining soil.

Prepare a hole for the camellia. Dig the hole one and a half times as deep, and twice as wide as the current pot.

Remove the camellia from the pot and gently spread the roots apart.

Combine the soil from the hole with a generous amount of peat moss or compost.

Set the camellia in the hole and backfill with dirt mixture. Add enough dirt to fill surround the roots, making sure to keep the shrub at about the same soil height as it was planted in the pot. Don’t allow the base of the trunk to go below the soil line.

Apply at least two inches of mulch around the base of the shrub to help keep moisture levels high.

Water the plant thoroughly at planting and regularly through the growing cycle.


Camellias prefer to grow while sheltered from the summer’s heat and hot afternoon sun. Locate plants on the northern side of the house or under the shade of taller trees. Not only will the proper location held shade plants in the hot summer months, but it will shelter the shrub from harsh winter winds.

Increase water levels during the peak blooming season. Help keep moisture levels up by applying several inches of mulch near the base of the plant, but ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk. Keep camellias adequately watered until moist, but not soggy.

Don’t be overly concerned with a lot of bloom drop; camellias are known for producing more blooms that they will actually open. Excessive bloom drop may indicate too much water, too little water, or being exposed to sudden freezing temps.

Once your camellia shrub is well established for a few years you may skip supplemental watering. Just ensure that the soil is well-draining.

How to Prune Camellias

Pruning camellias not only helps tend the overall shape of the shrub, but it also encourages fullness. Plan to prune your shrub before buds form.

Pinch off the tender ends of branches by hand, or use a pair of sterilized clippers to remove tips of the branches.

Make deeper cuts to remove damaged or diseased stems, or to open up the shrub so it can receive more light. Cut back lower branches to encourage upward growth.

“Debud” your shrub when blooms start to bloom to close to each other. Consider removing interior growing buds to allow the shrub to focus energy on the outer blooms.

Pests and Problems

Periodically inspect the underside of leaves for signs of scale or spider mites. Apply an insecticidal soap or alcohol to the leaves to eradicate the source of the critters.

Keep the area under your camellia tidy to help prevent fungus. Rake and remove fallen blooms and leaves frequently.

Yellow or falling blooms may indicate blight. Sanitize the are thoroughly by removing all dropped petals and leaves, as well as any mulch. Refresh the area by applying a fresh 4 to 5 inches of mulch beneath the shrub.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why does my pink camellia only have white flowers now?

Answer: Camellias have a knack for changing colors, or even producing two different colored blooms on the same plant. If your camellia is now white, it sounds like it has reverted back to the original color of the plant (the color of the bloom from it's "parent" plant). It is highly likely that your plant will only produce white flowers from here on out. If nothing else, you now have a great conversation starter!

Question: After seeing camellias in South Carolina, I would like to plant them where I live in zone 6a in Michigan. Do you think they will survive and flourish?

Answer: Camellias certainly will grow in zone 6, just make sure to winterize them properly. Shield the plants from harsh winter winds, and insulate roots with a thick layer of mulch around the base of plants and roots. Consider nipping some of the blooms to encourage a longer blooming time of the plant. Camellias typically bloom in the spring or fall months in zone 6, whereas warmer climates may see blooming year-round.

Watch the video: How to Plant a Camellia - First Plant at New House

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