Camelia care - Pruning


Camellia (Camellia)

Family: Theaceae

Camellias are members of the tea family found growing in Asia. There is a huge range of size, flower colour and form. Camellia japonica and its many cultivars are the most popular. C. sasanqua is used as a hedge. Camellias prefer partial shade, good drainage and an acid soil. Ideally, they need an organic soil, eg peat . As they are surface rooting, add mulch to the surface each year, as well as an acid fertiliser.


Camellias are similar to rhododendrons; they produce a mass of blooms and do not require major pruning.

If you want to train a hedge of C. sasanqua, plant 1m apart and regularly trim back the new growth each year in spring to encourage bushiness. Like rhododendrons, you can remove spent blooms to promote further flowering and prevent energy going into seed production. Use secateurs to cut back past the flowers or use your thumb and forefinger to break off the flower.

For larger flowering varieties, remove all the flower buds except the outward-facing buds, to encourage larger blooms. Remember that flower buds are more swollen than leaf buds.

Camellia flower and leaf buds. Note that the flower buds are fatter than the leaf buds.

The old adage to prune a Camellia so that a bird can fly through it is useful advice.While you want a reasonably dense foliage, it is a good ideal to remove some of the longer leaders to open up the plant and let in more light and air. This will encourage growth from lower down, improving the health and flowering of the plant. If left, plants tend to flower only at the top of the plant. Prune anytime after flowering.

While camellias can be cut almost to ground level, this is not necessarily good practice. Hard pruning will create a mass of epicormic shoots or can cause dieback. This dense growth may be suitable for a hedge, but not if you want to improve flowering. To do this, thin out a lot of the growth as described above. This will encourage new growth and flowering. While it can take longer to achieve better flowering, you will get better results in the long term.


From semi-ripe stem cuttings taken in autumn.

from "The A-Z Pruning Handbook for New Zealand" by Jon Muller.

Camelia care - Health


CAMELLIA (Camellia)

This genus includes the tea plant, with the plants coming from south-east Asia. They like acid, well-drained soils with added organic matter such as peat or mulch (avoid mushroom compost, lime or ash).

Young plants need adequate moisture, and should not be planted too deeply. Most camellias prefer some shade, although sasanquas can tolerate more sun.

Symptoms: Young leaves turn yellow, with green veins.
Cause: Lime-induced chlorosis
Cultural: Avoid using lime or ash, or growing plants near brick or concrete.
Apply peat as compost or mulch.
Add aluminium sulphate or acidic fertiliser to acidify the soil.
Apply liquid iron sulphate to overcome iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency on a leaf showing interveinal chlorosis, with the veins green and the parts between them yellow.

Symptoms: Yellow mottling occurs.
Cause: Virus-like symptoms
Solutions As the cause is unknown, leave the plants, or remove them if they are unsightly.

Symptoms: Leaves turn yellow all over, and the plant suffers stunted growth.
Cause: Lack of nutrients, especially nitrogen
Solutions Cultural: Apply acidic fertiliser and mulch, and water in well.

Symptoms: Poor growth occurs, with die-back. Holes appear in stems, with sawdust or 'frass'.
Cause: Lemon tree borer
Solutions Cultural: Remove dead and poor growth back to a healthy bud or branch collar.
Alternative: Plant garlic and lavender close to the tree. Insert fine wire into large holes to kill larvae.

Symptoms: Petals die back. The base of the petals turns brown first, then the whole flower turns brown and falls intact to the ground.
Cause: Camellia flower blight
Solutions Cultural: Remove diseased material and mulch the ground. Improve air circulation by thinning camellia and adjacent plants. Plant sasanqua varieties, which flower in autumn, when infection is less prevalent.

Symptoms: Bud drop occurs, or flowers fail to open
Cause: The likely causes are: - production of too many flowers, - damage from the sun, - over- or under-watering, - poor drainage, or - lack of nutrients.
Solutions Cultural: Maintain ideal conditions, including adequate water, nutrients and light. Thin out flowers if there are too many buds.

from "The A-Z Plant Health Handbook for New Zealand", by Jon Muller.

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