Native to China and Japan, gardeners in Asia have treasured camellia plants for thousands of years. Growers in North America prize these slow-growing shrubs for their large, fragrant, rose-like blossoms and glossy, dark-green leaves that hold their color all year. Single, double or semi-double blooms appear in late winter to early spring in shades of white, pink or red, depending on the variety. A favorite in shady southern gardens, camellia thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through 9 with only minimal care. Camellia plants provide a colorful accent in the home landscape, particularly when planted beneath oak and pine trees that provide broken shade and acidic soil.
Choose a planting site that receives partial shade and consists of rich, moist, slightly acidic soil. Apply a 1-inch layer of compost to the site prior to planting, and use a garden spade to incorporate the material into the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Plant camellia plants during spring, after the threat of frost has passed.
Cover the soil surrounding the plants with a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch to maintain moisture, insulate the soil and deter the growth of unattractive weeds. Allow about 3 inches between the mulch and the plant's crown to minimize the risk of fungal disease.
Water camellia plants once every five or six days, or whenever the top 2 inches of soil feels dry. Soak the ground to a depth of at least 4 inches to ensure the roots receive adequate moisture to support growth. Do not allow standing water to accumulate.
Feed the plants during spring, immediately after flowering ends, using a balanced, organic 10-10-10 NPK garden fertilizer. Apply following the instructions on the package for the best results. Water lightly before and after feeding to release the nutrients into the soil and prevent root burn.
Prune camellia plants during spring, just after flowering, to improve the plant's health and overall appearance. Cut back any overgrown limbs by several inches and remove all damaged or diseased growth using hedge clippers. Pinch off any dead flowers as necessary.