What Are Camellias? And How To Plant And Care Them?



Updated on 2/20/2024
Emma DowneyBy Emma Downey
Gardening Expert
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Camellias are native to the south, which is the core of the camellia nation. Camellia japonica, also known as the common camellia, is officially recognized as Alabama's state flower. It may appear that these plants, which are so well suited to our region, must have been born here; in reality, they are native to eastern and southern Asia. These gorgeous evergreen shrubs and trees belong to the family of plants known as Theaceae and are responsible for the flowering of our gardens, even when winter is in full swing. There are over 3,000 different recognized varieties of camellias, and they come in an astonishing variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are immune to browsing deer, which is another advantage of living outside in the south. This lovely flowering shrub is a popular choice in the south because it thrives in the warmer environment of the south and has a prolonged blooming season. (Some even bloom in fall!) 

Creating New Plants And Facilities

When it comes to planting, most places can do it successfully in either the spring or the fall. In regions of the upper south where the root system requires more time to become established before the start of cold weather, spring is the best time of year. Be sure to mulch extensively so that the roots can remain cool and the soil can retain its moisture. During the first year, it is essential to water the plant on a consistent basis. First, water sufficiently so that the root ball as a whole is saturated with moisture; then, prior to the subsequent watering, allow the surface of the root ball to become just slightly dry.

Both The Watering And The Exposure



Camellias have a tendency to develop and bloom more successfully when they are provided with light, some shade, and protection from the scorching afternoon sun. This is especially true for younger plants, which do best when grown in the shade of large trees or on the northern side of a home, where the temperature is cooler. As they expand in size and their dense canopies of leaves continue to shade and cool their roots, they will gradually become accustomed to spending more time in the sun. The provision of shade during the winter mitigates the negative effects of the cold in the upper south.

Established plants are at least three years old, robust, and shading their roots. These types of plants require very little extra water. If you decide to water them, you must ensure the soil has plenty of drainages. Protect them from the harsh winds, especially if you live in the upper south or close to the ocean. Because they are sensitive to salt spray, camellias do not thrive in the humid environments typical of coastal regions.


After the blooms have fallen off in the spring, use a fertilizer for acid-forming azaleas or camellias to feed the plants. Repeat this process in the middle of the summer if growth appears to be slowing down or the foliage appears sparse and begins to lose its dark green color. Use the amount that is specified on the product's label. It is important not to overdo it, as plants produced in soil rich in nutrients require very little fertilizer, and you should never feed plants that are ill or in distress.

Camellia Problems



Sunburn is typically indicated by parts of the leaf's core that has become scorched or yellowed. Overfertilization is typically indicated by leaf symptoms such as burnt leaf edges, excessive leaf drops, or corky leaf patches. Planting in neutral or alkaline soil can lead to chlorosis, characterized by yellow leaves with green veins. Chlorosis can be treated by providing the plant with chelated iron and adjusting the pH of the soil by adding sphagnum peat moss and/or garden sulfur.

Scale insects are a typical problem in tea. On the undersides of leaves, these bugs seem like little brown or white specks, and the honeydew they secrete allows sooty mold to grow on them. The infected leaves turn a yellowish color and then fall off. Horticultural oil or a systemic insecticide such as acephate (Orthene) or dimethoate (Cygon), applied according to the product label, can be used to treat the tea scale.

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Two fungal illnesses are widespread. Camellia petal blight is a disease that causes blossoms to rapidly turn brown and fall off the plant. Sanitation is the most effective method of control; pick up and dispose of any blossoms that have fallen from the plant and any that are infected and remain on it. Remove and dispose of any existing mulch, and then apply a new layer of mulch measuring between 4 and 5 inches thick in its place. The camellia leaf gall disease causes the leaves to become deformed, pale, thick, and meaty; they gradually turn white and brown and eventually fall off the plant. The most effective way to control it is to collect and dispose of afflicted leaves before they turn completely white.

Bud drop is a regular complaint; this happens to all camellias to some extent (many set more buds than they can open). Still, it can also be brought on by overwatering, drought throughout the summer, or abrupt frost. Check out the article "The Biggest Mistakes To Avoid When Growing Camellias" for more information on problems that can arise when caring for camellia plants.




Prune after blossoming has ceased. Remove any diseased or rotten wood, and thin off the growth when it becomes so dense that the blooms do not have enough space to open properly. Reduce the length of lower branches to stimulate development in an upward direction, and prune the top growth to make lanky shrubs bushier. At the time of pruning, make your cut just above a scar that indicates the end of the plant's growth from the previous year (often a slightly thickened, somewhat rough area where bark texture and color change slightly). If you make your cuts slightly above this spot, you will typically force the growth of three or four dominating buds.

Camellias Are Cultivated In Pots And Vases.

Grown either outside on a terrace or indoors in a cold greenhouse, camellias are exceptional container plants that can be grown in any environment. Camellias of the gallon size should be planted in containers with a diameter of 12 to 14 inches, while 5-gallon size should be planted in containers with a diameter of 16 to 18 inches. Potting soil with organic matter making up at least half of its whole volume should be used to fill the container, and make sure the container has a sizable hole on the bottom for drainage. Check out the article titled "15 Things That Every Camellia Enthusiast Ought To Know" for more details.

Hardy Hybrids



Take comfort if you reside in the Upper or Tropical South and have trouble cultivating camellias because hybrids now thrive in the harsh weather in both regions.

There are a few different species, the most notable of which is the C. oleifera, which are capable of producing hybrids that can survive temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit with little to no damage as long as they have some protection from the winter sun and wind. You can choose from varieties such as 'Polar Ice' and 'Snow Flurry,' both of which have white anemone-form blossoms; 'Winter's Charm,' which has a pink peony form; 'Winter's Dream,' which has semidouble pink blooms; 'Winter's Fire,' which has semidouble to peony-form, hot pink flowers in the middle of winter; 'Winter's Star,' which has lavender There is also a series of hardy camellias belonging to C. japonica that are known as the April series. These camellias get their name from the month they normally bloom in their habitat's cooler, more northern region. The songs 'April Blush,' 'April Dawn,' 'April Remembered,' 'April Rose,' 'April Snow,' and 'April Tryst' are among many that fall into this category.

These japonicas, including 'Alba Plena,' 'Debutante,' 'Gigantea,' 'Lady Clare,' 'Mathotiana,' 'Professor Charles S. Sargent,' and 'Red Giant,' do particularly well in the Tropical South, reaching as far as Fort Myers and West Palm Beach in the state of Florida. You can even try growing them in Miami; however, the alkaline soil there will need you to grow them in containers instead of the ground.

Fall Camellias



Try some fall-blooming camellias, also known as Sasanqua camellias, if you want to think outside the seasonal box when it comes to camellias. These camellias are also called Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua). These species mature to a height and width of approximately 10-12 feet tall and wide, which is more compact than the typical growth pattern of camellias. They provide gorgeous, glossy, green foliage and large blossoms just when the rest of the garden is getting ready to hibernate for the winter.

It doesn't matter which camellia you go with; there are at least a few shrubs that will thrive in your garden. During the colder months, if you give your plants a little care and attention, you'll have lots of colorful blossoms to provide happiness to your home.