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How To Grow Camellias

Camellias are beautiful flowering shrubs that can brighten up your garden with their colorful and fragrant blooms. They are evergreen plants that have glossy, dark green leaves and come in many varieties and sizes. Camellias can be grown in pots or in the ground, depending on your climate and space. Here are some tips on how to grow a camellia successfully.

Choose the Right Variety

 Camellias are native to Asia and prefer a mild, humid climate with partial shade. However, some cultivars are more tolerant of sun, cold, or heat than others. For example, Camellia sasanqua can handle more sun exposure than Camellia japonica, and some japonica cultivars are hardy to zone 6. 

You can also choose camellias based on their flower color, shape, size, and fragrance. Some common colors are white, pink, red, yellow, and lavender, and some flowers are single, double, or peony-like.

Prepare the Soil and the Planting Site

Soil Requirements: Camellias thrive in well-drained soil that is slightly acidic, ideally with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.5. This pH range provides the optimal conditions for their growth and flowering. To ensure your soil meets these requirements, you can conduct a pH test using a kit or a meter readily available at gardening stores.

Soil Amendment: If your soil pH is too alkaline (above 6.5), you can adjust it to the preferred range for camellias by amending it with sulfur or peat moss. Sulfur helps lower the pH over time, making the soil more acidic, while peat moss also contributes to acidity and improves soil structure. Incorporating these amendments into the soil before planting will create an environment that is conducive to healthy camellia growth.

Organic Matter and Nutrients: Adding compost or manure to the soil is essential for enriching it with organic matter and nutrients. Compost is rich in beneficial microorganisms and nutrients, enhancing soil fertility and promoting vigorous root development. Similarly, well-aged manure provides essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are vital for camellia growth and blooming. Regularly incorporating organic matter into the soil maintains its health and fertility, ensuring robust growth and beautiful flowers.

Sunlight Requirements

Partial Shade or Dappled Sunlight: Camellias prefer growing in locations with partial shade or dappled sunlight for the majority of the day, particularly in regions with hot climates. Partial shade provides protection from the intense afternoon sun, which can scorch the delicate camellia foliage and flowers.

Dappled sunlight, filtered through the canopy of trees or shrubs, creates a gentle and diffused light environment that is ideal for camellia growth. When choosing a planting site, consider areas that receive morning sun or filtered light throughout the day, ensuring your camellias thrive in a balanced light environment.

Avoid Competition: It’s important to avoid planting camellias near trees or shrubs that compete for water, nutrients, and space. Trees with dense root systems can outcompete camellias for resources, leading to stunted growth and reduced flowering.

Similarly, planting camellias near large shrubs may result in overcrowding and increased competition for resources. To prevent these issues, select a location away from the root zones of large trees and shrubs, allowing your camellias to establish themselves without interference.

When and How to Plant

Optimal Planting Time: The best times to plant camellias are during the fall or spring seasons. These periods typically offer mild temperatures and adequate soil moisture, which are conducive to successful establishment and root growth. Planting during these seasons allows camellias to acclimate to their new surroundings before facing the stresses of extreme heat or cold. Aim to plant your camellias when the soil is moist but not waterlogged, as overly wet conditions can hinder root development and lead to rotting.

Planting Technique: When preparing to plant a camellia, start by digging a hole that is approximately twice as wide and as deep as the root ball of the plant. This extra space provides room for the roots to spread and establish themselves in the soil. Gently loosen the roots of the camellia to encourage outward growth and prevent them from becoming pot-bound. Place the plant in the center of the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball sits slightly above the surrounding soil level. This helps prevent the roots from suffocating and promotes proper drainage.

Backfilling and Watering: Once the camellia is positioned in the hole, backfill it with soil, gently tamping it down to eliminate air pockets. Water the newly planted camellia thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots and provide essential hydration. Adequate watering is crucial during the initial planting phase to promote root establishment and minimize transplant shock.

Mulching: Finally, apply a layer of mulch around the base of the camellia plant. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, and moderates soil temperature fluctuations. Use organic mulch such as shredded bark or wood chips and spread it evenly around the plant, leaving a small gap between the mulch and the stem to prevent moisture-related issues.

Water and Fertilize Regularly

Camellias need consistent moisture but not waterlogging. Water them deeply once or twice a week during dry periods, checking the soil moisture with your finger before watering. You can also use a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose to water them slowly and evenly. 

Fertilize camellias with a special acidic fertilizer or an all-purpose organic fertilizer from spring to autumn, following the label instructions. Do not overfeed or fertilize in winter, as this can cause bud drop or leaf burn.


 Pruning Needs: Camellias typically require minimal pruning, primarily for maintenance purposes such as removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Additionally, pruning may be necessary to shape the camellia plant according to your aesthetic preferences or to manage its size within your garden space. By selectively removing unwanted growth, you can promote air circulation, reduce the risk of disease, and maintain the overall health and appearance of the camellia.

Timing: The best time to prune camellias is after they finish blooming, which usually occurs in late winter or early spring. Pruning at this time allows you to assess the extent of flowering and selectively trim branches without sacrificing next season’s blooms. Avoid pruning camellias during their active growing season or when they are preparing to bloom, as this may disrupt their flowering cycle and result in reduced flower production.

Pruning Technique: When pruning camellias, it’s essential to use sharp and clean pruning tools to make precise cuts. Dull or dirty tools can cause unnecessary damage to the plant and increase the risk of infection. Make clean cuts at a slight angle, just above a leaf node or a bud, to encourage healthy regrowth and minimize the risk of disease entry. Removing dead or diseased branches first, followed by any shaping cuts, ensures that the camellia remains healthy and aesthetically pleasing.

You can also remove any faded flowers to encourage more blooms. 

Pests and Diseases


  • Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of camellia leaves, causing them to curl and distort. Aphid infestations can weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to other diseases.
  • Scale Insects: Scale insects attach themselves to the stems and leaves of camellias, sucking sap and causing yellowing or browning of foliage. They often appear as small, round bumps and can be difficult to control once established.
  • Tea Scale: Specifically targeting camellias, tea scale is a type of armored scale insect that forms white or brown scales on the undersides of leaves. Severe infestations can cause leaf drop and stunted growth.
  • Spider Mites: These tiny arachnids feed on the underside of camellia leaves, causing stippling, discoloration, and webbing. Spider mite damage is often more prevalent during hot, dry weather.


  • Camellia Flower Blight: This fungal disease causes brown spots or lesions on camellia flowers, eventually causing them to rot and fall off prematurely. Flower blight thrives in warm, humid conditions and can spread rapidly during periods of high moisture.
  • Camellia Dieback: Caused by various fungal pathogens, dieback affects the stems and branches of camellia plants, causing them to wilt, die, and eventually rot. Pruning infected branches and improving air circulation can help prevent the spread of dieback.
  • Root Rot: Excessive moisture in the soil can lead to root rot, a condition caused by fungal pathogens such as Phytophthora. Affected plants may exhibit yellowing or wilting foliage, and their roots may appear dark and mushy. Proper drainage and avoiding overwatering can help prevent root rot in camellias.

To prevent and manage pest and disease problems in camellias, it’s essential to maintain good garden hygiene, provide proper cultural care, and monitor plants regularly for signs of infestation or illness. Additionally, choosing disease-resistant camellia varieties and using organic or chemical control methods as needed can help keep these beautiful plants healthy and thriving.