Camellias are flowering shrubs native to Asia. Among the genus are hundreds of varieties that bloom in a rainbow of colors with single or double flowers. The hardiness of the camellia depends upon variety, but the plant is generally hardy to USDA Zone 7. When shopping for a camellia, reject any plants that have scars at the base or brown roots, according to horticulturists at North Carolina State University Extension Service.
Plant the camellia, in late fall to early spring, in an area that receives dappled shade. The planting hole should be 1 inch shallower than the nursery pot in which the camellia is growing and three times the width. As you dig, throw the soil into a wheelbarrow, as it will need to be completely removed from the planting site. The wheelbarrow will also help you measure how much soil was removed.
Replace the removed garden soil with a mixture of 2/3 peat moss and 1/3 sand. Mix these amendments into the soil to a depth of 6 inches.
Use the shovel to dig a hole in which to plant the camellia. It should sit 1 inch shallower than it did in the nursery pot.
Place the camellia's roots in the hole and backfill with soil. Lightly press around the base of the plant.
Pour a 3-inch layer of mulch over the part of the rootball that is exposed and spread it out on the soil, the same width as the camellia.
Give the camellia enough water so that the soil is wet to a depth of 15 inches. Check the soil in two weeks, and if it is dry, water again.
Fertilize the camellia with a fertilizer labeled for use on camellias. If it is particularly warm in your region, use cottonseed meal instead, as it won't burn the camellia's roots. Wait until there are buds to begin fertilizing and then reapply every six weeks. Discontinue fertilizing in August.
Prune the camellia in early spring. Some varieties are sensitive to over-pruning. If you are in doubt about how to prune your camellia, consult with the agent at your county cooperative extension office. Pruning the camellia generally entails the removal of weak or dead shoots and any dense growth in the interior of the plant.
Check the camellia periodically for pests, such as scale, aphids and spider mites. Sometimes a strong blast from the garden hose will rid the plant of certain pests. Contact your county cooperative extension service for advice on what pesticides to use in your area.