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Camellia – Camellia japonica

Prized for its glossary foliage and fragrant spring flowers, the Camellia is an evergreen shrub ideally suited for a cool but frost-free position.

Camellia is an evergreen shrub that grow naturally in the cool mountain forests of Japan and Korea. The name comes from the palnt discoverer, Georg Josef Kamel ( 1661 – 1706 ).

When they were first introduced into cultivation in Europe they were grown in greenhouses. Only later was it realized that they could tolerate really cool conditions. Today, many camellias are grown outdoors. Although a frost may spoil their flowers, it will rarely destroy the plants.

Camellias belong to the tea family – the strongest resemblance to tea plants being in the leaves, which are shiny and slightly toothed at the edges. The flowers, Which appear in spring, come in shades of pink, red and white. The flowers can be single, semi-double, double, anemone and paeony form.

Size and growth

Depending on variety camellias can reach heights of 1 1/2 – 2m (4-7ft). They are bushy in appearance.

Camellia Colors and Varieties

There are dozens to choose from but why not try Camellia jponica ‘Adolphe Audusson’ a red semi-double flower. In the paeony form, ‘Debutante’ is a pink flowering smaller plant only 1m (3ft) tall.

Display ideas

Camellias looks best if grown individually in large containers. They are such elegant plants that it is worth spending time and money to find suitable containers. White china containers will set off a small plant very well. A larger plant will look better in a white wooden conservatory tub.

Plant Doctor

Leaves and buds fall off : Sometimes natural, since the plant produces more buds then will flower, butt could be due to under or over watering.

Prevention : Correct the balance between temperature, humidity, water and fertilizer.

Petals turn brown : Caused by petal blight, or if only the edges are brown, by the sun or frost. If blight is the cause, it will extend to center of flower.

Treatment : Discard all infected flowers and possibly treat potting mixture with a fungicide.

A year with your plant

June – September

Outdoor conditions suit the plant at this time of year, so keep it on a balcony or terrace or in the garden. Put it in a sheltered, semi-shady spot. If it isn’t watered by rain, then water it yourself. Fertilize during the growing season.

October – February

In winter keep your plant under cover at a temperature ranging between 7℃ – 13℃ (45℉-55℉). It needs to be kept cool, but don’t let the temperature drop below freezing. If you keep it in a greenhouse keep it cool. Don’t feed in winter.

March – May

During this period the plant will bloom. The exact time varies depending on the variety. Keep it cool. Each flower will last for a week, and the flowering period for a month. Flower size may be influenced by removing all side buds and keeping only top buds at the to of shoots.

Prune plants after flowering if you want to control their shape. Apply a liquid fertilizer fortnightly during the active growing time.

Caring for your plant

Many people feel that a camellia is a difficult plan to grow. In the wrong conditions that is true. It needs a certain range of temperatures and the right amount of humidity. In winter temperatures should not exceed 7℃ – 13℃ (45℉-55℉) since it will lose moisture too rapidly. This will result in buds and leaves dropping. Far better to keep your plant too cool than too warm. A high level of humidity too, is necessary. Provide this by frequent misting or stand the plant in a bed of moist pebbles. In a sense you will be duplicating the Asian mountain conditions of mildness and mist.

Plants grown in pots outdoors or under shelter can be brought in on a temporary basis, when in flower. They still should be kept cool and away from heating appliances.

Camellia Secrets of Success

General Care for Camellia

Provided you are able to give it the growing conditions it needs it will not be too difficult to grow. Potting : Re-pot only if necessary, not more than every 3-5 years. Use an equal part mix of peat, leaf mold and lime-free potting compost. If not re-potting, top dress at the end of the rest period.


Water your camellia regularly throughout the year. Never let it get completely dry. Mist frequently and stand in a bad of pebbles for high humidity. Feeding : During the growing period, when buds begin to form apply a standard liquid fertilizer. In winter stop feeding as the plant needs a rest period.


Light : It needs a position in bright light but out of hot direct sunlight. From June to September, keep it outdoors in a sheltered, shady position. Temperature : Should be cool, especially in winter, around 7℃ – 13℃ (45℉-55℉). The temperature should not drop to below freezing. If you bring it indoors, keep it cool and away from heaters.

Buying Tips

When to buy

March to May is when the various varieties flower naturally, but they may also be found for sale in bloom at other times.

What to look for

Look to see that a large number of buds have not fallen off and that the petal edges are not brown.


With proper care, a camellia can be a long lived plant.

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