How To Espalier A Camellia - Knowledgebase Question

Mercer Island, WA
Avatar for gunbykranz
Question by gunbykranz
June 11, 2002
I recently purchased two Monrovia Kramer's Supreme camellia plants in one gallon containers. I would like to begin training them on espaliers placed against the wall of my garage. Two part question: How far from the wall would you recommend placing the trellis to give the plants room to grow and that also would look attractive, and secondly, since they are only about 18-24 inches tall right now, at what point would I begin pruning and securing branches to the trellis? Any other tips you have would be appreciated.

Answer from NGA
June 11, 2002
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Training your Camellia should be a simple process. I'd keep the plants 3-4' away from the garage wall, both to encourage good air circulation around the plants to discourage disease problems, and to make it easier to get behind them if you ever decide to paint the wall. Plants growing too close to walls can suffer from heat stress, as well. 

To espalier your camellia you'll need to provide some kind of support for the main stem and branches. Plant three or more posts parallel to the wall and string wire tightly between the posts, starting about 2' above ground level and spacing the wires 12"-18" apart (however close you want the branches to grow). Your supporting framework should look a little like a split rail fence except you'll have wires instead of split rails running from post to post. Camellias can grow quite high - if your intention is to completely hide the garage wall, you'll want to install some very tall posts! If you're more inclined to use pre-made trellis material, secure it to the posts rather than the garage wall.

Begin by planting your camellias within a few inches of the wire or trellis and gently tying the main or center stem so it grows straight up. As the stem gets taller, spread the branches and tie them so they grow horizontally along the first wire (or bottom slat of the trellis). You can safely remove any branches that are lower than these. As your plants grow, pick the next likely branches and tie them to the next highest support, removing any that are growing in between the two rows of horizontal branches. Continue to tie and prune as your plant grows.

There are some wonderful books on the topic of espalier. My favorite is entitled Pruning, by Christopher Brickell. Your library may have a copy. It's loaded with lots of pictures to guide you through the process so your finished espalier has just the look you want. Best wishes with your espalier!

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