How to Care for Camelia Plants

The basics of camellia plant care are fairly similar to the basics of caring for azaleas, hollies and rhododendrons. They are very hardy plants that can stand very cold and very hot temperatures if the soil is kept moist at all times. These beautiful flowering, shrub-like plants can grow indoors and outdoors, as long as they have the proper care and protection. They are usually planted from late fall to early spring, but can be planted anytime. Careful watering and fertilizing, the right lighting, discretionary pruning and responsible pest control are the factors that will give you the most bountiful and beautiful camellia blooms.

Step 1

Prepare the conditions of your planting site. The best way to ensure a healthy camellia plant is to make sure it gets the best start possible. Choose an area with well-drained soil and no shade trees or shallow roots that may interfere with growth. Try working a few shovelfuls of mulch or manure into your planting soil.

Step 2

Dig holes about 3 inches deep, 1 foot wide, and 5 feet apart. Place a bulb in the center of each hole, and cover lightly with the soil. Water well, and cover the top soil with a little mulch or straw.

Step 3

Water your camellias consistently. These plants like their soil to always stay moist, but never muddy. If desired, add mulch to the surface of the soil to keep the bed moist and cool.

Step 4

Fertilize early, but sparingly. Camellias do not need much fertilizer, but adding some extra nutrients early on will help their growth. Choose an acrid fertilizer to apply once in early spring and again in the summer. Since all brands of fertilizer are different, be sure to follow the directions on the bottle.

Step 5

Prune heavily in the winter and spring. If you're using your camellia plants for landscaping, use pruning shears to thin the interior of the bushy part, as this will keep your plants full, and deter pests from settling there. If you're more concerned with showy flowers, use shears to trim the outer branches, which will encourage bigger blooms. Light pruning can be accomplished throughout the plant's lifetime by using your hands to pull off lighter growth. Always trim or pull the branches at the base.

Cam Middour

Cam Middour has an M.F.A. in writing from Columbia University, and has worked for "The New Yorker," "Narrative Magazine," and the Poetry Society of America. Her work is forthcoming, or has appeared in "New England Review," "Western Humanities Review," "Sarah Lawrence Review" and others. She has been writing professionally for seven years.