The Q&A Archives: Care Of Camellias

Question: Would like more information on the care of cammellias which were purchased at Lake Street Garden Center in NH. Do they need to be cut back after flowering ceases? Need this information for my Mom since I purchased the plant for her.

Answer: There are two types of camellias. Camellia japonica grows to an average height of about 8?, with some spreading varieties topping off at 4 feet. If grown indoors as a container plant, it will flower in January and February. Outside they generally bloom in March and April. This ancient oriental species forms a dense pyramid.

Camellia sasanqua is similar to japonica but is smaller in stature, generally growing to 6 to 10 feet. The plant is also more refined and graceful in habit. The blooms of this species appear indoors or outside from October to January. It is also considered a hardier plant than Camellia japonica.

To keep your indoor camellia healthy, provide bright filtered light all year, and keep them in as cool a room as possible during the fall and winter, where the temperature can range from 45 to 60 degrees. Dry winter heat will stop camellias from blooming or cause bud abortion. Stand the pot in a tray of pebbles filled with water to keep the humidity high around the plant. Keep the plant well watered throughout the active growing period, then at the end of the flowering period, water only enough to keep the mixture from drying out, for a period of about six weeks. Fertilize every two weeks during the active period of growth.

To promote flowering, Camellias should be pruned when they are actively growing in the spring and no later than mid-June. Fertilizing in May and June will also help with flower bud production. It is also important to remove spent flowers and keep debris from lying around the base of the plant to inhibit any fungal or disease problems.

Best wishes to your Mom and her new camellia!

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