Camellias are flowering evergreen shrubs or small trees native eastern and southern Asia. Growing from 3 to 20 feet in height, camellias and produce a variety of colorful, fragrant flowers coveted by many gardeners. Homeowners also love camellias because they bloom from late fall through early spring when other flowering plants in the landscape are generally dormant. Camellias are not difficult to grow but do require some special care and attention to maintain their beautiful appearance.
Select the camellia species that grows best in your area. Camellias are generally grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 7 and 8, but some cultivars can grow outside in zone 6 and can tolerate temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant camellias in partially shaded areas with well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Camellias planted under tall pine trees or on the north or west sides of homes are properly protected cold temperatures and intense morning and late afternoon sunlight. Suitable soil pH for planting camellias is between 5.5 and 6.5.
Incorporate organic matter into the soil before planting. Camellias are slow-growing, shallow-rooted plants that will die if soil is consistently wet. To help with drainage, mix 2 to 3 inches of organic compost or pine bark mulch into the soil before planting camellias.
Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of pine bark mulch the to soil surface to help protect the camellias' shallow roots from excessive heat or drought conditions.
Water camellias when needed. During periods without rainfall, irrigate camellias every 10 days to two weeks to dampen the soil to depth of at least 14 inches encourage deeper rooting.
Avoid over-fertilizing. Many homeowners over-fertilize camellias, which often causes burned or dropped foliage. Unless you live in an area with very sandy soil, apply only a light application of slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer for acid-loving plants.
Prune plants sparingly. Camellias typically require very little pruning. Remove dead or unwanted branches with a bypass lopper in late winter or early spring after blooming declines.
Check foliage frequently for pests and disease. Camellias can become infested with pests like scale, spider mites, aphids and cutworms. Large populations of pests are difficult to control and leave plants vulnerable to disease. Common camellia diseases include dieback, leaf gall and sooty mold. Use pesticides or fungicides for control if necessary.