Growing Camellia Plants: How To Care For Camellia Flowers

Camellia plants [kuh-MEE-lee-a], are lovely evergreen shrubs native to the mountainous forests of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

It first arrived in the United States in the early 1800s and is now a favorite due to its large flowers.

It also grows in the wild in many areas, including the southern East and West coasts of the US.

There are many Camellia varieties, (Camellia japonica being one of the most popular), offering various shades of deep red and pink colors.

Red flower of the Camellia plant

The plant is part of the Theaceae family of plants.

The Camellia genus includes close to 300 different species, with thousands of popular hybrids.

While the flowers are lovely, the plant is grown for its leaves and seeds. The leaves are used for tea while the seeds are used for tea seed oil.

Camellia Flower Care

Size and Growth

The camellias are rather large plants, with foliage that may reach between four and seven feet tall.

These are bushy plants with long stems and large green leaves.

Blooming Camellias and Fragrance

The flowers are the best feature of the camellias. They come in a variety of colors, but the most commonly cultivated varieties produce pink, red, or white flowers.

They also have a slight aroma that most people find pleasant.

The large flowers feature many petals, such as a rose, making it an attractive choice for the garden.

Unfortunately, it is not the easiest plant to grow outdoors if there is any chance of frost during the winter.

Light and Temperature

Camellias require bright light, but can’t tolerate the direct sunlight. Most varieties also prefer slightly cooler temperatures, as they are recommended for USDA hardiness zones 6 to 10.

While these plants are suited for outdoor growth in cooler regions, the plant doesn’t tolerate frost.

It also doesn’t like temperatures to get too cool in the winter.

  • In the summer, plants need partial shade and warmer temperatures.
  • In the early spring, keep plants relatively cool in the 50° degrees Fahrenheit range.
  • During the winter, keep plants in an enclosed area, such as a screened-in porch, and maintain 40° – 50° degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.

Watering and Feeding

Water the plant throughout the year. Don’t allow the camellias to dry out.

These plants are finicky and the foliage will start to droop and whither if the root ball soil dries completely.

During the warmer months, give camellias frequent water and fertilizer, especially during the growth period when the buds are forming.

TIP: Use a weak fertilizer solution added to the water, as using full-strength fertilizer may harm the plant.

Soil and Transplanting

These plants are found in woodsy areas, where the soil contains more compost from fallen debris.

Regular potting soil mixed with peat moss, leaf mold, or compost should offer the optimal environment for the camellias.

Repotting isn’t necessary unless the plant is growing too large for its current planter.

In most cases, the plant only needs repotting every three to five years. Use the same woodsy soil that is recommended for new plants.

Maintenance and Grooming

The plant is bushy and can be trimmed back to maintain its form. Trim the branches at flowering and place them in a vase.

The flowers should last about one week before wilting.

How To Propagate The Camellia Plants

The plant is hard to care for and propagation is even harder. To try propagating the plant, take healthy cuttings at the start of the spring season.

The cuttings need a rooting hormone and should be kept indoors until they take root.

Place a plastic bag over the cuttings to ensure that they stay moist.

Pests or Disease Problems Of Growing Camellias

Pests rarely attack the camellias. However, there are several health issues to look for.

If the leaves and flower buds start to fall from the plant, it may be getting too much or too little water.

It may be necessary to adjust the temperature, watering frequency, and humidity to keep the plant healthy.

As mentioned, this plant can be difficult to grow.

Finding the right balance of watering and temperature is not easy, which is why this plant requires close attention throughout the year.

Petal blight is another potential issue. The flowers may turn brown.

If the edges of the petals are brown, strong direct sunlight may be scorching the plant.

If the discoloration reaches the inner parts of the petals, the plant is likely developing a fungus.

Cut infected flowers and foliage from the plant. In some cases, a fungicide may be needed to stop the spread of the fungal infection.

Suggested Camellia Flower Uses

The camellia plants are not easy to grow but look great in a container.

In garden design give the plant enough room to thrive, plant it alone in a wide container or window box.

In warmer regions, set plants such as Camellia susanqua outdoors throughout the year. In colder regions, bring it in for the winter.