With its lovely rounded shape, colorful, fragrant blooms and shiny green foliage, camellia (Camellia japonica) has long been a favorite in humid, temperate climates. The fragrant blooms appear in late winter and spring, in shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and lavender. Because camellia does well in light shade, the shrub can be planted under taller trees such as pine or magnolia. Camellia, which is hardy to USDA zones 7 to 9, isn't difficult to propagate from stem cuttings taken in April or May.
Cut a 4- to 6-inch camellia stem. Use sharp, clean pruners to make the cut just above a leaf or bud. Pull the leaves off the lower half of the stem.
Fill a planting container with a mixture of half peat moss and half coarse, clean sand. Water the potting mixture two to three hours ahead of time so the mixture is moist but not dripping.
Place a small amount of powdered rooting hormone on a piece of waxed paper and dip the cut end of the camellia stem in the powder. Plant the stem in the container about an inch deep, or deep enough that the stem will stand upright.
Cover the container with a plastic bag and close the bag with a rubber band. The plastic bag will keep the potting medium warm and damp for weeks, as long as the plastic is sealed.
Place the container in direct, bright light a few feet away from a window or next to a window with light filtered by a sheer curtain. Room temperatures should be between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the plastic bag from the container when the stem has rooted and the roots are at least an inch long. This can require anywhere from a few weeks to three or four months. To determine if the stem has rooted, lift the stem carefully from the potting mixture with a flat table knife. Check for roots then return the stem to the soil.
Allow the stem cuttings to stay indoors at least until the following spring, then plant the camellia seedling outdoors in a partially shady location. Allowing the seedlings to remain indoors longer will increase the chances that they will survive once they're planted outdoors.