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How to Care for Camellia Plants

camélia image by Christine Lamour from

Camellia blooms may look exotic, but in spite of its stunning beauty, it is a rugged, sturdy evergreen flowering shrub. Once established, it will thrive with little attention and will beautify the landscape for many years. The camellia is a show-stopper, with glossy green leaves covered in masses of blooms in single or double varieties, and in shades of pink, burgundy, red and white. Camellias can be grown in-ground or in containers.

Plant camellia in partial shade. Although camellia will grow in either sun or full shade, too much sunlight will scorch the camellia, and too much shade will cause stunted, spindly growth.

Water the camellia regularly for the first year, and keep the soil consistently damp, but never soggy. After the first year, normal rainfall is adequate, although an occasional watering during hot, dry weather will be beneficial.

Spread 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch such as pine needles dry leaves or shredded bark around the base of the camellia bush. Mulch will maintain a more even soil temperature, and will retain moisture around the plant.

Feed the camellia plant after it is finished blooming, but before new growth emerges, using a granular fertilizer for camellia plants. Read the label for specific instructions, as the amount of fertilizer will depend on the size of the plant. Scatter the fertilizer around the base of the plant, then water the fertilizer into the soil. Don't allow fertilizer to come in contact with the camellia's trunk. Fertilize the camellia again in mid-June, but don't fertilizer after July. New growth late in the season will make the camellia more susceptible to damage in winter.

Prune camellia lightly when the plant is done blooming, and before the appearance of new growth. Remove any weak or spindly branches, and any branches that cross over other branches. Thin out the inside of the camellia bush to improve air circulation inside the plant. Don't prune heavily, as camellias are slow-growing.

Inspect the camellia bush often for tea scale, tiny insects that can do considerable damage if they aren't addressed early on. Tea scale is indicated by cottony masses on the underside of the leaves, and yellow blotches on the tops of the leaves. Treatment often includes a systemic insecticide, applied strictly according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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