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Interesting Facts

There is a Camellia tree in the gardens of Schloss Pillnitz in Dresden, Germany in the state of Saxony that was reportedly brought from Japan in the late 18th century. Eastern Germany does not have the climate that will allow Camellias to survive through the Winter. The Camellia has survived in this harsh climate for over 100 years. This tree has been able to do so because the caretakers of Schloss Pillnitz developed a mobile greenhouse on tracks that will move over the tree as the weather begins to get too cold for Camellias to survive. The name Camellia was named after the Jesuit pharmacist Georg Josef Kamel. The most commercialized species in this genus is Camellia sinensis, otherwise known as tea.

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Japanese Camellia   (Camellia japonica)

Common Camellia

C. japonica is naturally a large shrub or small tree variable in size, growth rate, and habit. Hundred-year old plants in California could reach heights as high as 20 feet tall with equal spread. However, gardeners can consider C. japonica to form shrubs 6 to 12 feet high and wide.

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Plant Types: Interior Plant, Perennial, Shrub
Light: Partial Shade to Partial Sun
Height: 10 feet to 15 feet
Width: 6 feet to 10 feet
Zones: 7a to 8b
Bloom Color: Lavender, Orange, Pink, Red, White, Yellow
Bloom Seasons: Early spring, Late fall, Early winter, Mid winter, Late winter
Leaf Color: Green
Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native
Shape: Oval
Fertilizer: Miracle-Gro® Nursery Select Miracid® Water Soluble Plant Food
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Plant Care
Planting:

Do not plant Camellias so that the base of the trunk is below the soil line. The plant's roots should be close to the surface. Root leaf bud or semi-ripe cuttings from the current year's growth between midsummer and late winter. Conduct grafting in late winter. Air-layer in late spring. Air-layering is a propagation method where a cut is made on an aerial stem and covered with moist sphagnum moss and sealed into a plastic sleeve. This process induces rooting.

Plant Growth:

There are over 250 species of Camellias and, thus, there are many growth needs for this large genus of long-lived evergreen shrubs and small trees. If these diverse needs could be generalized, you would say that all of them need to be protected from strong, hot sunlight and drying winds. Prefers partial shade, or bright filtered light. Camellias do not grow well in coastal or desert regions as they are unable to tolerate high temperatures and salty soils/air.

Where hardy, grow camellias in a border or woodland garden, or as specimen plants. Grow under large trees or structures that will provide camellias with some shade from the hot sun.

In places where Camellia is not growing hardy, raise plants indoors in a cool greenhouse with a minimum temperature of 35ºF (2ºC). During the day, set temperatures between 41-50ºF (5-10ºC), and at night, keep the temperature at 36ºF (2ºC). Camellias are also good for containers that can be moved outdoors during the summer to a partially shaded site.

The flowers of Camellia are well suited for cutting and flower displays.

Blooming:

The American Camellia Society describes 6 different flower forms and they are as follows: single, semi double, Anemone form, Peony form, Rose-form double and formal double.

Blooming time is variable according to species.  Usually blooms during cool season, Sept. 1-April 1.

Inadequate water during the summer will cause flower buds to drop in fall and winter or result in smaller flowers.

Soil and Irrigation:

Camellias need well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.  The soil should be acidic (pH 5.5-6.5).  Well-drained, acidic potting mixes work fine for indoor plants. 

Water freely and regularly when in active growth, sparingly in winter.  During summer, wash the foliage to cool the plant, remove dust and grime, and also increase the humidity.  Give 2 inches of mulch around the soil surface in summer, but avoid covering the base of the trunk. A mulch will enhance water retention and protect the surface roots from the summer heat.

Top dress annually with shredded bark.

Fertilization:

Over fertilization of Camellias is a common problem. It is better to dilute the suggested fertilizer than to use too high of a concentration. Fertilize once in early spring and again in early summer.  Use an acid loving plant fertilizer.  Do not fertilize during or immediately after the plant's dormant period.  Also make sure the plants are well-hydrated before fertilizing them.  Apply the fertilizer under the drip line of the plant.

Pruning:

The best time to prune Camellias is right after they are done flowering. Many Camellias can be shaped rather easily via pruning. Remove the ends of the branches to the shape that you desire. If you wish to increase the size of the plant but want to maintain a certain shape, only remove a couple of inches from the ends of the branches.

Pests:

Prone to damage by aphids, scale insects, weevils, planthoppers, bud mites, and spider mites.  Watch out for sooty mold which commonly grows on the droppings from aphids and scale insects.  Other problems include canker, dieback, root rot, viruses, gall, algal leaf spots, and anthracnose.  Camellia Petal Blight also occurs, and is caused by a fungus that destroys the blooms.  Make sure to remove dead flowers and foliage to prevent the spread of disease.