Camellia Care Guide (How to Grow Gorgeous Camellias In Your Garden)
Find out everything you need to know about Camellia care so that you can plant, grow and prune beautiful Camellias in your garden.
This time of year, my absolute favorite plants in the whole world are Camellias. Which is mostly due to the fact that they are evergreen shrubs and bloom in the winter.
But these bushes don’t just bloom. They have big beautiful “see them from across the yard” blooms.
If you plant them in the right place, you don’t even have to go outside to enjoy them.
I did just that (accidentally I have to admit). I planted one in a container that is straight across the yard from my bedroom window.
In the winter, when I open my curtains in the morning, I can see its gorgeous blooms. It’s a good thing it’s a winter blooming plant, too. In the summer, there are so many other bushes and trees with leaves in the way that the view would be blocked.
Of course, they are even prettier viewed up close, and if you have planted a fragrant variety, you won’t want to miss the wonderful scent.
In case you love them as much as I do and were wondering what is required for Camellia care, I thought I would share what I’ve learned.
Where To Plant Camellias
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Zones: 6 – 10
Sun: Part shade
Height: 18″ – 25′
Width: 18″ – 12′
This is somewhat of a new found love for me. Camellias are more of a warm-climate bush, so I wasn’t able to grow them when I lived in Toronto (although I was always jealous of people who could!)
When I moved to South Carolina, I made sure to get one…and since then I have amassed quite a collection of them.
Depending on the variety, they can be small bushes (4′ tall and wide), small trees (25′ tall and 12′ wide) or pretty much anything in between. So make sure to get one that will fit the spot where you want to plant it.
While most Camellias thrive in zones 7 – 9, there are some varieties that can be grown in colder temperatures (zone 6) and or warmer ones (zone 10). Check the label to make sure the bush you are buying is suitable for your area.
In general, Camellias prefer part shade, especially in the afternoon. Although once they get going, they are pretty adaptable. I have some that are growing in full sun and some in pretty close to full shade, and they all are doing quite well.
How To Grow Camellias
Camellias are fairly slow growing plants which means it takes them quite a while to get established after they are planted.
Their shallow root system also means they can dry out quickly. Because of this, I always apply a 3″ – 4″ layer of double-ground bark mulch around the plants. It helps to regulate the soil temperature and the moisture levels.
I also try to install soaker hoses around them so it is easier to make sure that they get the water they need.
Camellias grow best in soil that is slightly acidic (similar to Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel). To make sure they are happy with their growing conditions, you can apply a little Rhododendron and Azalea fertilizer* in the spring which will promote healthy leaves. Although don’t overdo it, or you can burn those shallow roots.
If you live at the northern end of their range (zone 6), you may want to plant your Camellias in the spring to give them some time to settle in before the colder winter weather strikes.
I do very little in the way of pruning when it comes to Camellias.
They grow in a very mannerly way, so they rarely need to be shaped. I just cut out the occasional dead branch.
If you do need to prune them for some reason, do it right after they finish blooming so you don’t remove next year’s buds.
One thing to note…most of my Camellias have some buds that fail to open and just drop off the plants. I always wondered if I was missing something in my Camellia care that was causing this…so I decided to find out.
According to the Clemson University Camellia Guide, this could be caused by not enough water in the summer (entirely possible some years around here).
But it is also a normal phenomenon with Camellias. Apparently, many of them set more buds than they can open, and the rest just fall off.
Types of Camellias
There are quite a few different species of Camellia, but here are a few of the most common:
Camellia japonica is the most common species and there’s a reason why.
It has a really wide selection of varieties with different heights, flower colors and sizes, and bloom times. You can also find just about any shape of flower that you like – single, semi-double, double, formal double or full peony form.
If you buy a few different plants and pay attention to when they bloom, you can have at least one of these Camellias flowering in your garden from September all the way until April.
Camellia sasanqua and Camellia vernalis
Camellia sasanqua and Camellia vernalis tend to be on the smaller side of the height range and have somewhat smaller flowers with single or semi double blooms.
Their big claim to fame is that most of them are fragrant. Who doesn’t love beautiful flowers that also smell good?
Camellia sinensis By KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0
Camellia sinensis is also known as the Tea Camellia. Although it blooms in the fall, many people grow it (as you might have guessed) to make tea leaves. Green, black, white and oolong teas all are produced from the tea camellia foliage.
I don’t have one of these in my garden yet, but the pink-blooming variety is on my list!
Hint: If you are trying to find Camellias that bloom at different times, gardenia.net has a Camellia search tool that will help.
Other Shade Bushes You Might Like
- Shade Loving Shrubs: 11 Beautiful Bushes To Plant Under Trees
- How To Grow Tree Peonies That Will Produce Huge Stunning Flowers
- Mountain Laurel Care: How To Grow Beautiful Shade Loving Kalmia latifolia
Have comments or questions on Camellia care? Tell us in the section below.
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This post was originally published on January 9, 2018 but was updated with new content on November 20, 2021.
My camellia dried out and leaves are brown. Is there anything I can do to revive it
Hi Cathy…You can try giving it extra water for a few weeks to see if it will come back. If you’re lucky, the roots haven’t died yet and it will start to re-grow.
My Camelia tree was flourishing last year. This year the leaves look infected and are falling off. I got no flowers. What diseases are common to these shrubs.
Hi Annabel…there are a few different issues that could cause problems with your Camellia. This article from Clemson University does a good job explaining what they are and how to fix them.
are camellias deer resistant, keep flowering, perennials, shade loving, don’t grow into tree(no higher than two-three feet tall)?
Hi Judi…Established Camellias are not usually the first choice of deer, but they will eat younger plants and sometimes the flowers. They do bloom every year and grow well in the shade. However, most will grow taller than three feet, but the exact height depends on the variety. If you get a shorter one, you can keep it at 3 feet tall by pruning it back right after it has finished blooming.
How long after planting will the camellia bloom
Hi Kim…it depends on the variety and the age of the plant when you buy it. If it is very small/young, it can take up to 5 years for them to bloom. I try to buy them when they are already blooming…that way I know for sure what color they are and that they will likely produce flowers the next year.
Hi Cathy, I have a Yuletide camelback that bloomed beautifully throughout November. Now it’s leaves have turned a very yellow green instead of staying that lovely deep dark green. I think it started as a watering issue – too little, then too much. What I do to help return it to a healthy green?
Hi Renate…most of the time yellow leaves on Camellias are because the soil is too alkaline. Try adding some Rhododendron fertilizer to see if it helps.
Been wanting to try one of these for years! So beautiful! I live in W. Tennessee and wonder when I should plant my camellia? on which side of the house, for protection, sun, etc,? Thanks!
Hi Barbara…you can plant Camellias in either the spring or the fall. The only side of the house that I haven’t grown them on is the South side. I think it gets a little too hot and sunny there in the summer (unless you have some trees to provide shade). The East side is probably the best (morning sun and afternoon shade). The flowers can be a little delicate so putting them where they are sheltered from the wind (by your house or other plants) helps.
Which species would grow the best in full shade? I am looking for a couple of privacy plants (the tree variety) and would love to try camellias.
Hi Carol…Camellias would make a beautiful privacy hedge! I have Camellia japonica “Nuccio’s Pearl” and Camellia japonica “Pink Perfection” growing in total shade and they bloom reliably every year. I haven’t tried any of the Camellia sasanqua varieties in full shade (they do very well with morning sun and afternoon shade), so I can’t say for sure how well they would do.
I purchased 1 Christmas Carol & 2 Early Wonder Camellias in November 2022. They arrived 12/02/2022 & I planted them a couple days after they arrived. I am in Dallas TX area. I was told to put them in a shady spot and I did. All the leaves fell off when the first freeze came in December. One of the Early Wonder is not putting on any leaves. It appears to be dead & the other Early Wonder & Christmas Carol are just now putting on one new leaves this spring. What can I do to same the two that still shows life?
Hi Dona…Once the roots get established, Camellias are pretty tough. If the leaves are growing back, they should be okay. Make sure they are well watered and you might want to put down some fertilizer for acidic plants (sometimes called Rhododendron fertilizer).