Most Camellias can be successfully grown in containers as long as you remember some guidelines!
The most important thing to remember about a Camellia is that it will absolutely not tolerate wet soils or soils that do not drain properly. Make sure you pay close attention to the recommendations we have for potting soils.
Growing in Containers—tips
- Choose a container that is about twice as large as the root mass of your plant.
- AVOID containers that are too large or you could have uneven water and nutrient distribution which could lead to trouble with your plant. Keep plant roots near the top of the pot.
- Make sure your container has plenty of drain holes.
- Fill the bottom with larger pebbles or stones so that water can drain well to the bottom of the pot and out. Avoid clogging holes.
- Clay will pull more water out of the soil—so if you must use clay, pay close attention to your plants water needs.
- Don’t let your container sit in a saucer of water. Drain water off so that water will not be wicked back up into the pot.
Choose the correct potting soil for Camellias
The natural habitat for camellias are soils that are organic in nature and well drained. The biggest mistake people make with camellias is buying the bagged potting mixes that contain a lot of peat. A little peat is ok, but using soils that are comprised mostly of peat moss will cause excessive moisture in the soil and will lead to poor drainage which will suffocate the roots of your camellias. We do not recommend that you use the commercial bagged mixes unless you have used them with camellias before.
Garden centers may have bagged ground aged bark and may call it soil conditioner – check the ingredients to be sure. Nurseries in your area may have the bark, sand and peat soil – check with a local nursery in your area.
Camellia Potting Soil
We use a mixture of three different materials when we make our soil. We use a very fine, ground aged pine bark. The pieces are about 1/4 inch. We add larger pieces of bark to the smaller mix. The larger pieces are 3/4 to 1″. Then we add peat moss. A little is good, a lot is not.
You can often find these ingredients in a garden center especially if there is a tree industry, such as pines. You could also visit a local growing nursery that makes their own bark-based soil mixes for shrubs or trees.
Use this soil mix for any containers. Put rocks or other material in the bottom to keep the drain holes from clogging. This mix is excellent for amending your garden soil.
Our Soil Recipe
- 1 gallon Soil Conditioner/Mulch (Finely ground bark less than 1/8” pieces)
- 1 gallon Mini Nuggets (Small bark pieces 1” or less)
- 1 Cup Peat moss (ground)
- 2 Tablespoons Dolomite Lime
Mix in Bio-tone™ according to package directions for your container. As you plant grows, use Holly-Tone™ for fertilizing.
Alternative Potting Soil Recipe
5 Parts Miracle Grow Garden Soil For Shrubs & Trees (not Bedding or Vegetables)
2-3 Part Perlite
No need for peat moss as the soil is already high in organic matter
(This may contain fertilizer so be careful of what you add)
Your camellias in containers will benefit from regular fertilizing. We suggest using natural organic fertilizer in containers like Holly-Tone™. Holly-Tone™ can be used about every 6 weeks during the growing season. Avoid granular and timed release on plants in containers. We also suggest using Bio-Tone™ for adding in your camellia soil when you re-pot it into your containers.
Re-potting Containerized Camellia
Camellias grown in containers will do very well for many years. You may at some point have the need to re-pot your plant. Choose a container a little larger than the one you’re growing in. It’s usually best to gradually step up plants on a regular basis instead of putting them in a container that is too large.
If you wish to re-pot the plant back into the same container, you can trim the roots back somewhat and then re-pot again. The roots will generate and your plant will be healthier for it.
Gene Phillips is one of the owners of Gene’s Nursery in Savannah, Ga. He is a 2nd generation grower and attributes his love of Camellias to his father, who inspired him to breath in the beauty that they bring to him but more importantly to others. In his ‘free’ time, you’ll find him wandering through old gardens, trying to identify flowers or taking countless number of photos to share with others! He also enjoys meeting people and comparing ‘garden’ stories.