Growing Camellias

Latest Update:  9th August 2016

Growing Camellias.
  • My camellias don't require a lot of attention.  They just need adequate water and home made compost once a year in spring.  The flowers need thinning when the buds appear in early autumn to get the best out of the floral display.
  • They grow in a sheltered spot in my courtyard, but get adequate sun in the warmer months.  They are sheltered from hot sun in the height of summer by a silver birch tree growing close by.
  • The dark pink one (see photo) is the more mature of the two.  It is about 20 years old and still gives an extraordinary display of flowers starting in late autumn and lasting through to spring.
  • It is complimented by my other camellia which is only about 4 years old.  It flowers a little later,  but its delicate double pale pink flowers look wonderful in this setting.
  • The dark green shiny foliage of my camellias looks great in summer.
Details.
  • Binomial Name:                                        Camellia Japonica.
  • Family:                                                    Theaceae
  • Garden bed type:                                      Drip line irrigated. 
  • Recommended soil pH:                             6.0 - 6.5.  
  • Height x width.                                         2500 x 2000 mm.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm Temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern Hemisphere. 
    Growing Conditions:
    • They like partial shade.  Dappled sunlight under a tree's canopy is ideal.
    • Camellias are frost tolerant, and stand up to hot weather well, however, their leaves will burn in very hot sun if not protected.
    • I have not been troubled by pests or diseases on my camellias.
    • A well drained, well watered, raised garden bed with plenty of organic matter in the soil and located under the canopy of a small tree are ideal conditions for planting a new camellia shrub.
    Feed the Soil.  
    • In winter, remove old mulch, fallen leaves and other decaying organic material from under the trees canopy.  Dispose of them in the compost heap.   
    • Top dress the soil with a 60mm layer of thermal compost and in September drench the soil with aerated compost extractCover with fresh straw mulch.
    Growing Instructions  
    • Camellias can be propagated from seeds or from cuttings.  I must admit, I haven't done either, but my research tells me you need a lot of patience to grow them from seed.  They take 6 to 8 weeks to germinate, and another 4 to 7 years before they flower.
    • Cuttings can be taken from new growth in early summer, when it has lost its sappy green appearance and has begun to harden off.
    • Cut a 100mm length of this new growth, and strip all the leaves except the top two while retaining the growing tip.  Plant the cutting 50mm deep in a propagator's composted wicking medium where it is moist and biologically active.
    • Once the camellia cutting has grown to about 150mm, make a space in the mulch covering the prepared bed and transfer it from the propagator with as large a root ball as possible .  Plant it with the top of the root ball level with the soil, and water it in well with dilute seaweed extract.
    • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea in early spring and early autumn.
    • Once flowering is finished give the camellia a light prune to control its shape and stimulate new growth.  Remove any diseased or dead branches.
    Organic Pest Control.
    • Regular foliar sprays of aerated compost tea help camellias maintain good leaf condition and repel airborne pests and diseases.  Spray flowering buds when they appear in autumn to protect the petals against fungal diseases.
    • A springtime soil drench of aerated compost extract and a top dressing of home made compost will help build the plant's resistance to soil borne pests and diseases.