The camellia (Camellia sinensis), commonly known as the tea plant, is grown around the world for its production of tea. An evergreen shrub, the camellia grows about 5-to-10 feet tall depending on the variety. One variety, the Camellia assamica, grows to 50 feet. The foliage of the shrub is a deep, glossy green that measures up to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fragrant white flowers appear in the fall.
The camellia grows best in tropical and subtropical locations where there is ample humidity and moisture. Humidity from 60 to 80 percent is ideal, according to the International Camellia Society. The plant thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. Young plants need to be located in shade, but once it is mature, the plant requires ample sunlight for growth and flower production.
Despite its preference for a humid, tropical climate, the camellia does best when the temperature is relatively cool. It enjoys a temperature that cycles between 40 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter dormant months, it can survive a light frost.
When grown for ornamental purposes, light pruning is all that is required, but if you are growing the plant for tea production, the plant should be maintained at 4 feet in height. Prune away flowers to encourage leaf production. Consider debudding in fall to produce larger blossoms if the shrub is being grown for ornamental purposes. Remove all buds but one or two.
The leaves of the camellia are harvested to make green, black and oolong teas. The production of green tea entails using fresh leaves that are stemmed and then dried. Black tea requires that the leaves be crushed and oxidized before drying. Leaves are allowed to only oxidize partially for the production of oolong tea.
Tea made from camellia plants contain a high level of antioxidants, according to Floridata. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals in the body, which is believed to help cell regeneration. Green tea also appears to be beneficial in such areas as cardiovascular disorders, certain cancers, dental cavity prevention, diabetes and some viral infections, according to the Mayo Clinic.