Planting outdoors is recommended when and if it is suitable for your area. In warmer regions (climate zone 8 and 9), fall planting is best. For colder climates, spring planting is the prefered time to install camellias.
- Plant in a location suitable for your plant’s needs and your location.
- In areas where your plants could get severe freezes, plant under an evergreen tree or next to a wall so that they will be protected from winter winds.
- In milder regions, plant in an area with filtered sun from a tree or other protected structure.
- Some varieties can tolerate full sun, but you must know which ones and you should be prepared to give the plant plenty of water, heavy mulch, and just a little extra fertilzer.
Don’t plant too deep.
Piling large amounts of soil on top of the root surface will suffocate your plant. Make sure your soil drains well and that the water goes into the root mass and does not run off. Avoid locations that remain wet or that do not drain well. Camellias do better on slightly raised planting like the one shown in the drawing below. Raising the planting up 3-5 inches improves drainage and helps to provide the root sysytem with more oxygen.
Amend clay soils or very sandy soils to provide a better environment for your roots to grow and breathe. Clay or heavy soils can be improved by mixing pine bark mini-nuggets into the soil. Usually, sandy soils are improved by mixing peat most into the soil at planting.
Mulch plants well to not only keep moisture in, but also to provide excellent humus as the mulch breaks down. Leaves, pine straw, and pine bark are excellent examples of good mulch.
Growing Camellias in Containers
Growing in Camellias in containers is easy. Choose a well draining pot and put rocks in the bottom for extra drainage. Use a very well draining soil that doesn’t retain a lot of water, and avoid commecial potting soils that have a heavy amount of peat most in them. Fertilize regularly! Repot or root prune when the roots fill the pot. Using “Pot Feet” underneath the pot to elevate the container further improves the drainage.
- We highly suggest using Hollytone™ & Milorganite™ or any other organic fertilizer for best results.
- Liquid feed applied at regular intervals according to package directions works well for small and large plants but only if it is done regularly. Once a season on using a liquid food is not enough. You eat regularly, so do your plants.
- Avoid Camellia-Azalea food or timed release fertilizer on any plant younger than 3 years old to avoid injury.
- Do not apply any fertilizer that is not specifically listed for acid loving plants or camellias.
Camellias prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 for best results and to maintain optimum health. If you are not sure what type of soil you are growing in, whether in the ground or in the container, then have it checked.
Damage, growth problems and nutrient deficiencies can occur in plants that are growing in soils with a pH balance.
Garden soil pH probe testers are not always accurate. Chemical tests are more accurate. Have a soil test done by your local extension agent or by a professional lab if possible.
Water when the plant needs it – when it approaches dryness. Water with pure water and avoid additives such as water softeners and water that contains high concentrations of salt. DON’T WATER AT NIGHT to avoid fungal problems. Remember, camellias like to be moist at all time. They do not like to be dry or stay wet!
Insects, Pests & Diseases
Tea Scale, mites and some leaf eating insects can be found munching on your Camellias. Most of these can be controlled with the use of insecticides, oil sprays or soaps. Horticultural oil is a very good insecticide that kills insects and mites with minimal effects on the environment. Diseases are few, but root rot (from incorrect soils) leaf blights (leaf browning tips and margins) can occur in certain situations where environmental factors permit the development. All of these problems can be controlled first by proper care and controlling the factors that create the problems.
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.