Camellia

Camellias are extremely popular in UK gardens as a winter and spring flowering shrub whose blooms appear when little else is going on in the garden. There are a great choice if you have acid soil and can also be grown easily in containers using ericaceous compost.

Growing camellia:

Camellias need an acidic soil and so if your soil is not acidic then you would be best, if you wish to grow camellias, to grow them in containers. They are a woodland plant and do best in shady areas with partial or dappled shade. They can be grown in full sun but will require careful watering so they do not dry out too much in these conditions.

When watering, you will have to be careful to use rain water and not tap water as, especially in areas that have hard water, the calcium contained in tap water can reduce the acidity around the roots over time and weaken the plant. However, if you run out of rainwater in the summer then you can use tap water over a short period without any ill effects.

Camellias will benefit from the addition of acidic mulches such as pine needles or from the addition of acidic organic fertilisers. Something that slowly and consistently adds fertility and keeps up soil acidity over the course of the season, such as a mulch, is often better to avoid inconsistent growth.

If you decide to grow camellias in containers then you should be sure to use a good quality ericaceous (acidic) compost. Peat free composts are available. You should usually re-pot the camellias every couple of years with fresh compost. You can re-pot into the same container as long as you trim off up to a third of the roots to make space for fresh compost.

Camellias can be propagated in a number of ways, from layering and grafting to semi-ripe or hardwood cuttings. Seeds are also an option but seedlings do not always come true to parent type.

Camellias form flower buds in the late summer and autumn on new growth and then flower in the late winter or early spring. To avoid cutting off flowering stems and reducing the next year's display you should prune in the spring immediately after flowering. Where a Camellia needs to be reduced in size or renovated you can cut it back hard and the results are usually reliable.

Why grow camellia in the garden?

Camellias give pretty flowers at the time of year when little else blooms in the garden and for this reason are of use to early pollinating insects as well as enlivening the garden for human eyes. They come in a wide range of varieties so you are sure to find one that would work in your garden scheme.

As a woodland shrub, camellias are particularly useful as under-plantings for trees in a wildlife or forest garden.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Camellia sinensis