- Author: Polly Nelson
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Polly Nelson UCCE Master Gardener
Planting area: USDA 6-9
Size: Average 6-12 feet, generally shaped as shrub or tree
Bloom Season: December through Mid-Spring, depending on species
Exposure: bright, indirect light; tolerates early morning sun with afternoon shade
Pruning needs: annually, after blooms are finished
Water needs: weekly once plants are established
Choose this plant when you want a shrub or hedge with dark, glossy leaves and showy, cool-season blossoms. Native to Southeast Asia, two of the more common species are C. Japonica (pictured) and C. Sasanqua. Blossoms (2.5-5 inches in diameter) come in a variety of colors, including white, pinks and reds.
Camellias require slightly acidic soil (ph 5.5-6.5), and protection from direct, hot sun and drying winds. Plant in well-drained soil, amended with organic matter. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and two inches deeper. Backfill the bottom of the hole by two inches, then set the root ball on top so it's above ground level. Replace dirt around the root ball, then mulch the area, staying two inches away from trunk, to conserve soil moisture and manage weeds. Create a circular ridge 2-3 feet from the plant to contain water. Water thoroughly, but don't allow standing water. Water consistently until the roots are established and plant shows signs of growth, then soak one time per week to encourage deeper root growth. Avoid overhead irrigation.
Fertilize with an acid-based plant food spring through summer. Follow label instructions to avoid overfertilizing.
Prune annually after blooms are spent to remove dead or weak wood, thin growth in the center of the plant to allow more light to penetrate, to control size and shape of the plant and to promote next years' flower production. Shorten branches to encourage upright growth and prune top growth to make lanky shrubs bushier.
Monitor Camellias regularly to spot signs of browning of blossoms (Camellia blight), sunburn, or the presence of insects such as aphids, scale, and mealybugs. Be diligent about picking up blooms when they drop and replacing mulch (2-3 inches) each spring to prevent fungal disease.