The Q&A Archives: Shaping Camellia

Question: I bought 15 of your camellias about 4 years ago. The varieties I have are: Setsugekka, Kanjirro, and yuletide. I was told to plant them 3 feet apart. I did. I was told that they all would be 10 feet tall when grown. Their height is from 3 feet to 7 feet. Is it a good idea to prune the more robust ones on the sides or cut off the weird growing branches or do you let them grow wild? Any idea why some are so short? They flower beautifully. Marti

Answer: There probably is no single reason for your plants to be growing at different rates. Some plants are just more robust than others, and as living things, will grow at a faster rate than a neighboring plant. I suspect they will all reach their full height and width in maturity. In the meantime, you can certainly prune them back so they are of a more uniform size. The general rule of thumb is to prune after flowering is finished, and don't remove more than one-third of the live material in any one growing season. I've found that the shrubs will grow two stems at the site of a pruning cut, so you'll end up with a fuller shrub if you cut back the longest branches so they're slightly shorter than the other branches. Eventually your camellias will grow together and you'll be able to form and maintain a hedge shape with annual shearing rather than branch pruning. Good luck with your camellias!

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