Top 10 Questions About Camellia Plants

By Shelley Pierce | May 27, 2018
Image by c11yg
by Shelley Pierce
May 27, 2018

Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. Camellias are known for their bright blooms and evergreen foliage, and are popular mainstays in the garden when all else seems blah. But great they may be, the shrubs are not without their fair of issues. Here are 10 most commonly asked questions about camellias growing in the landscape.

1. Why are camellia leaves turning yellow?

Are your camellias planted in full sun? Camellias are shade-loving plants, so a full sun placement could be blanching your leaves. You may also want to test your soil. Soil that is too alkaline can cause leaves on camellias to turn yellow. Or, perhaps your plant is simply stressed due to certain conditions, such as being overwatered or being attacked by insect pests. Stress is the most common reason for yellowing leaves in plants.

2. The leaves are black on my camellia. Why?

Sounds like a case of sooty mold fungus, which is a telltale sign of an aphid or scale infestation, and common with camellia plants. These insects secrete a honeydew, upon which black mold grows. An application of neem oil is recommended to combat both the insects and the sooty mold fungus.

3. Why are buds are dropping off of my plant?

This is a common issue in camellia shrubs. With camellias, it’s best to avoid extremes of any kind. Camellia buds will drop with overfeeding, a drastic change of temperature, or when the plant is too wet or too dry. The buds may also be “dropping” with the assistance of birds or mice.

4. How and when to prune a camellia?

Observation is key to knowing when to prune a camellia. Watch for it to stop blooming. That’s when you prune. And when this happens, it will be variable depending on your camellia variety. With regards to how to prune, you must first decide how you want your camellia to grow. If you desire your camellia to grow larger, just prune the branch ends back an inch (2.5 cm.) or less. However, if you want to contain it to a certain size, prune the branch ends back a few inches less than the size you are angling for.

5. Why is my camellia plant covered with ants?

Well, they aren’t there because they share your love of camellias. The ants on your camellia are there because they have a sweet tooth, feasting on the honeydew secreted by their pesky pals, the aphids. You can try blasting the aphids off your camellia with water from your garden hose. If that doesn’t resolve your issue, then spraying them with an insecticidal soap mix or neem oil is your next best line of defense.

6. Why is camellia dropping leaves?

It’s probably stressed out. Newly planted camellias have a tendency to drop their leaves during the first year due to transplant stress. Other stressors such as too much/too little water, too much sun, too much fertilizer or being too cold/hot can also cause leaves to drop. Insect pests, particularly soil borne pests such as vine weevil grubs, can cause this to happen as well.

7. What to fertilize a camellia with?

You should fertilize camellia plants during their growing season – once in the spring and then again, if you wish, in mid-summer. Cottonseed meal and fish emulsion are ideal choices. Alternatively, you can seek out slow release fertilizer at your local home and garden store that has an NPK rating of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.

8. How to get blooms on my camellia shrub?

The best way to assure yourself of blooms on your camellia is to simply keep the plant content with adequate care. This means keeping it properly hydrated – don’t over/under water it. An application of fertilizer in the spring doesn’t hurt either – but be careful not to over-fertilize, as camellias are not heavy feeders. The location where your camellias are planted also needs to be well draining. And, remember, camellias grow and bloom best in a partial shade location. Protect your camellia (and its flower buds) from any anticipated low winter temps by providing it some extra insulation with some horticultural fleece.

9. How to propagate camellias?

There are options aplenty when it comes to propagating camellias. You can try your hand at propagating them through seeds, cuttings, layering, and grafting. Camellias grown from seed can take up to 7 years to bloom so, if you’re not the patient sort of gardener, then this option really is not for you. The fact that camellias do not grow true from seed may also dissuade you from this option. Grafting may pose a bit of a challenge and is complicated for many gardeners, as it is an acquired skill.

If you’re seeking the fast and easy track to camellia blooming splendor, then layering is recommended. Layering is accomplished by making an angled cut on the ends of one of the camellia branches and then gently bending that branch so that the tip of the branch (the cut end) inserts itself into the ground. The submerged part of the branch will eventually root. Once it has developed roots, you may sever the newly formed plant from the mother plant and transplant it.

10. When is the best time to move a camellia?

Whether your camellia has outgrown its garden space or simply isn’t thriving well in its current location, the best time of the year to move camellias is during late fall or winter, when most camellia varieties are dormant. But wait – don’t a majority of camellias develop their buds and bloom during this time? Yes, they do – they bloom when they are dormant! You may want to wait until after it flowers but be sure to transplant it before it breaks dormancy and starts growing foliage.

We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.

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