How to Grow Camellias

Camellia japonica “Red Red Rose” As a foundation shrub, or a specimen plant, camellias (Camellia sp.) offer striking green foliage, elegant shaping, and brightly-colored blooms that make them one of the mainstays of the year-round garden. Almost any time of year, I can find a blossom or two on my camellias, and there is nothing lovelier than seeing the colorful flowers peeking out from under a late-winter snow. Here’s what you need to know to grow this nearly carefree shrub.

Features and Types of Garden Camellias

Like many landscape shrubs, there are thousands of cultivated camellia varieties and hybrids. In general, camellias have the following characteristics:

    • Size: Typically 6-15 feet tall, although there are smaller (2 ft.) and larger (to 20 ft.) varieties as well. Width is 5-7 feet.
    • Shape: Usually a dense upright shrub with a rounded, pyramidal, or small tree shape.
    • Foliage: Evergreen, glossy dark leaves.
    • Flowers: Large, rose like blooms with colors ranging from white to pink to red to yellow. A wide range of blossom size, shape, and color are available, including semi-double, double, and variegated blooms up to five inches across.
    • Growth: Slowish, around a foot per year.
  • Uses: Foundation plantings, borders, hedges, and specimen plants. Some varieties can be espaliered or grown as bonsai. Camellias can often be spotted as anchoring plants; their large size and dark green foliage provide structure, balance, and height to an overall garden design.

Camellia Species

There are two types of camellias very commonly seen in home gardens:

Sasanqua (left) vs. Japonica (right)

    • Japonica camellias (Camellia japonica) bloom in winter or early spring. They have large leaves and flowers and are the species most familiar to home gardeners.
    • Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua) have smaller, darker leaves along with smaller blossoms, and they bloom in the fall. Sasanqua camellias are hardier, more drought-tolerant and disease-resistant than japonicas, and many varieties can tolerate full sun.
  • Other varieties are available, including hundreds of species of camellias with even more cultivated varieties. Gardeners in zones 9 and higher can enjoy the lovely varieties of Camellia reticulata, and gardeners with less favorable growing conditions might find a good match in the many camellia hybrids available.
Planting more than one species will give your garden multi-season color. And, of course, as you take in the beauty of your camellias on a warm afternoon, you could also enjoy a beverage made from the leaves of another well-known species of camellia, Camellia sinensis, also known as the tea plant. Camellia sasanqua “Setsugekka”

Planting and Growing Conditions

Your camellia will grow best in these conditions:
    • Climate: Most japonica and sasanqua camellias are hardy to zone 7, with a few varieties hardy to zone 6. Flower buds can be nipped by frost, so later-blooming varieties may do better in colder areas.
    • Light: Semi-shade or dappled shade.
    • Soil: Well-drained acidic soil (pH 6.0 to 6.5). Do not plant in waterlogged areas. Add plenty of organic matter to the planting hole to improve drainage.
  • Water: Camellias are moderate drinkers and not particularly drought-tolerant, although older plants are more adaptable.
Variegated blooms are eye-catching and colorful.

Planting Tips

    • Camellias need to be planted a little high, so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the soil. This helps water drain away from the trunk.
    • Camellia roots are shallow, so avoid planting them under shallow-rooted shade trees such as birch and maple. They are often grown in the light shade of tall, deep-rooted pine trees.
  • Smaller varieties can be grown in containers. Use a potting mix designed for camellias, azaleas, or rhododendrons for best results.
Camellia japonica “Pink Perfection”

Caring for Camellias

    • Pruning: Prune Camellia japonica after the spring bloom. Prune Camellia sasanqua in very early spring, before flower buds form. Usually all that’s needed is a light shaping, and pinching off the tips of branches will encourage more fullness.
    • Fertilizing: After they finish blooming, feed camellias lightly with a balanced fertilizer, or with a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants. Use fertilizer sparingly as camellias do not require a lot of extra food. For better absorption, apply fertilizer in a wide circle around the shrub’s drip line, rather than concentrating it around the trunk.
  • Propagating: Camellias are most easily propagated by softwood cuttings, air layering, or grafting.
Camellia japonica “Midnight”
    • Blooming: Increase watering during bloom time to encourage full blossoms. As an optional practice, some growers remove flower buds (called “debudding”) to promote larger, showier blooms. To do this, you can simply remove a bud that is touching another, or you can remove all the interior buds and just leave the ones on the tips of the branches.
    • Mulching: Camellias need several inches of mulch to keep moisture levels and temperatures constant, but make sure the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk of the plant.
  • Water: Keep camellias watered, but not soggy. Water deeply to encourage deeper, more drought-tolerant roots. Water well before a hard freeze to prevent cold damage.
Tea scale is a common camellia infestation.

Problems, Pests and Diseases

    • Look underneath the leaves for signs of scale and spider mites, two main insect problems with camellias. Treat with insecticidal soap, spray, or alcohol.
    • To help prevent the fungus known as petal blight, rake up and remove fallen blooms and petals.
    • If the leaf veins are turning yellow, your soil pH may be too high. To find out, conduct a soil test and adjust as needed.
  • Camellias naturally shed older leaves, so a small amount of leaf loss is normal. Large amounts of dead, yellowed, or blotchy leaves can be a sign of disease.

Camellia sasanqua “Winter’s Fancy”

Further Information

  Find Peace of Mind As a Homeowner with a Home Warranty


  1. One camellia was planted within inches of our home. It is aobut 9′ tall. Will its roots destroy the foundation of our home?

  2. Black soot like powder covering leaves, plus white and yellow lumps on the underside of leaves. Started about 12 months ago have hosed them down but still keeps coming. Would be thankful for any tips of what to do.

    Peter G Paling

  3. Our flowers are gorgeous, but seem very heavy. They point to the ground. Most of the blossoms are low on the bush. It is such a shame that none of the blossoms face up. Do we need to stake? Nothing above mentions staking. What should we do????

  4. Our Camilla produces buds but they fall off and never bloom. Help!!!!
    Thank you so much,

    Karen (Kay) Wells

  5. we live in austin ,TX . our summer is very hot . can i still plant camillia ? can you tell me how hot they can tolerate ?

  6. Please help me, and I hope there is a solution to this. We bought this house and there were 3 different types of mature full grown camellia already the problem is the trunks go to the top of the house at least 10feet high eye level you only see a trunk no flowers because they are blooming at the top of the house really roof level. I would love to enjoy seening the blooms as I walk by daily and frequently. They have been shaped like a canopy. Who would do that you can’t enjoy the beauty of the flowers only if you toss your head back & look up 10 feet or more. please help. I truly would be appreciative!!!! p.s. the trunks are thick at least 3-4 inches diameter and they’re old trees like 10 years old most likely.

  7. We have had our camilla about 7 years and have not had any trouble with it, but last year some kind of leaf eatting bugs almost ate up the bush. Every time I would look I could not find any bugs. We have sprayed the bush amd havent seen any new leaves eatten on. What kind of bug do you think they were

  8. We have a young “Standard Camellia Japonica Tree” and it has just started developing leaves along the trunk (from top to bottom) which seem healthy enough, although the bottom ones seem to be coming along better than some at the top (odd ones at the top are turning dark before they’ve opened and then dropping off)We’ve only had it around 3 months and when bought was almost just a twig! Any help/tips would be appreciated as how to look after it, we are in the UK. Thanks.

  9. I am looking for a variety (in PINK) that grows well in Minneapolis. When do they bloom? the earlier the better, closest to late February. ???
    I want to send to a friend who lives there.

  10. we have two camellias tried them in our borders, we had buds
    but no flowers. So we put them in pot,s we had buds and four flowers.That was last year this year no bud,s at all,we have had these about five years.can you help please

  11. I planted a small camellia about 5-6 yrs ago and it never seemed to flourish. Last winter it had 2 blooms. Now it has quadroupled size, has many tiny buds but one grape size cranberry colored ? on it. I never saw what the blooms looked like before blooming and I don’t know if this “grape” is a problem? Can you please help???????

  12. I am concerned, my camelia is in full bud and it will be frosting soon. What should I do should I cover it with burlap of just mound up mulch

  13. We live in North Central Florida and we have five camellias with about a quarter of the flowers having brown outer petals. I have only found five or six flowers with the entire flower having turned brown. So far this year it has only froze overnight twice but the outer petals have been brown before it froze. My question is: Is it petal blight?

  14. My camelia bush looks sooo healthy, almost 3 ft high. This is the 2nd yr I’ve had it but no blooms on it. Wonder why, it seems like ideal conditions for it, dappled shade, acidic ground etc.

  15. our beautiful, normally heavily flowered camellia–by this time– looks like hell this spring–leaves are withered, golden brown and aiming to the earth…the buds set but are brown and dry…One of the five main trunks tho has green leaves and is trying to do its thing and bloom… looking pretty was a fierce winter here on the jersey shore and i wonder that she weren’t healthy enough to fend off the deep cold..anybody have a similar camellia this spring? thanks out there 🙂

  16. I live in South Florida I have a Camelia Tree medium size shiny green foliage. It was covered with beautiful red flowers when I purchased it. Now it always has buds but they never bloom. There doesn’t seem to be any bugs etc. on it. I have it in a pot on my patio. The location is West. it gets the hot afternoon sun. Would it do better in the ground in my front garden which is East exposure?

  17. Hello, this may seem like a silly question but I’m new to gardening but I want to buy a camellia tree, only a standard sized one about 3 ft or so. Ever since I saw my mother in laws camellia tree I’ve been in love with them and wanted to plant one in a large container in memory of my dear grandad but what I need to know is if I plant it in a large container will it grow, is there types of camellias that are certain sizes that won’t grow anymore? Because I want it to grow at least above my height. Is it a case that no matter what type of camellia tree I but it will grow by the size of the container it’s planted in?. Please please help 🙂

  18. I have just noticed on my red camellia that there is a small fist sized growth on it, pale cream in colour,it appears to be like a piece of foam but it seems quite solid – any idea what it may be, please. I have two other camellias a white variety and a pink and they do not have any sign of such a “growth”.


  20. I give up. The last time I saw a flower was when I bought the Plant about Five months ago. I’ve tried everything including Camelia fertilizer. There are many small tight flower buds that never bloom????

  21. I live in WPB Florida. Healthy green with lots of tight buds that never bloom I thought Camellias were easy breezy in South Fl.

  22. Hi,
    My camelia looses leafs very fast. When I bought it had many leafs, but when I planted it in a pot, it started to shed leafs. It grows new leafs, but then loses them in a few weeks. Can you give me any advice?

  23. I’ve just taken over a garden and it needs cutting back. I’ve cut back a bush and it’s exposed the side of a camelia, which hasn’t any leaves on. How hard can I cut the camelia back, will it recover on the exposed side?
    Many thanks Janet

  24. here is question
    My camelia is some 6 years old 4 feet high. during summer in semishade. In autumn we move it inside the house. Now I have discovered: camelias are all year in the garden. Minus 5-10 Celsius are usual winter temp can go to -15. can we/should we returne the plant to the garden? Inside the house she has lots of buds but they seldom open to bloom. At the moment the plant is full of blooms thank you for your advice

  25. I planted a Camelia bush early last fall. It had a couple of blooms on it when I planted it. It has not bloomed since. Does it sometimes not bloom the first year?

  26. I’m in Orlando, FLORIDA for winter months then go back to Missouri for summer months. If I plant a Carmella will it survive the hot summer with water once a week?

  27. We had many blossoms on our two camillas but either squirrels or deer have eaten all of them except the very top ones. how can I prevent losing more flowers or discourage animals from eating these precious blooms?

  28. I am considering planting camellias in a foundation, north facing in Southern California where we have a drought. I understand all your directions for are and planting. Are they a good choice? L.B.

  29. Two weeks ago, I had my 3 foot camillia (15 yr) transplanted over about 5 feet in the garden. The sun and water are about the same. North side of one story house out in an open garden with nice filtered sun. Now all the leaves are dead and hard. What do I do now? Replace it? It’s pretty much a focal point in the garden. A year of looking like this won’t work for me. If I have to cut it down to the ground, I’d rather just replace it. I live in zone 9, Bay Area of N. Calif. I didn’t have time to prepare the new location, my fence had fallen and had to be rebuilt. The plant had to move right away!

  30. Our camellia blooms and flowers and either/both immediately fall off. What needs to be done. It is planted in a pot on our front porch in potting soil. We water and fertilize.

  31. Unaware of what it was, i put it in a large pot, but it froze over night two yrs ago and hasn’t bloomed since. Now that i know WHAT it is, any ideas on what to do, and where to put it?

  32. I am landscaping my front yard in front of my house and have chosen camellias to go against the house for it’s evergreen and it’s fall/winter blooms. I HAD chosen gardenias to grow in the front of them, but found my sprinkler system is killing the leaves. I have learned since then that gardenias need to be watered in the ground and not on the leaves directly. What other plant that will give me summer blooms and go with camellia’s and are evergreen?

  33. thank you for this article. I look after a garden with many shrubs and your guide to Camellia care is very helpful, especially with the ‘print easy’. Barbara

  34. I need to move a camellia. It is small but needs to be relocated. It is in east/north location. Does it need this location? May I put it in front of a north facing wooded location? It is a beautiful little bush. Thanks

  35. Yes you nay use my questions only. Just moved to s Florida, our Camilla bush needs help. Leaves have brown spots on lthem and some white marks. House sat for 6 months or more and nothing done to the flowers or plants. What can do to make this plant health. It gets mostly hot afternoon sun. The plant is located next to the swimming pool sliding board. Thank you.

  36. No issues to report Just adding a comment about my dad, James Keith. Even though he has passed away on 2-20-15 it seems he is still here in spirit because I was looking for information on how to grow the seeds from camellias and just happened to read the questions and saw his. What a shock and some happy tears. P.S., Wish you could have seen the flowers on his camellia. wow!!! There were so many and so big and beautiful. Maybe a message from GOD the week he died to let us know he was going home soon.

  37. Where are you answers to these questions? I am about to plant a camillia and do not know where to put it. Your readers comments helped some but I want to be sure I put it in correct place. I have always wanted one because they bloom in winter. We are in East Texas and it is very hot here in summer, but neighbor has a beautiful one about 8 ft. tall. She is worried because it appears to not only have buds but fruit looking things that look kind of like very small apples. She has never had these before. Can you help her too.

    I guess I will plant mine where there is mostly shade, which limits me very much. I have no place in my front yard. Just large mature holly bushes and red tip photinias, and a huge pitosporum. The red tips photinias match my front door. So pretty when tips are red. Crepe myrtles grow well here as well. And we have had a gardenia tree for over 30 years that is beautiful when it blooms. Thats about all we can grow, except lots of trees. Bradford pear trees are beautiful all year round to me?

  38. Unusual situation. Gophers or moles were undermining my flower bed. I had a young camillia in the flower bed and it was coming along well, putting on 2 or 3 pretty flowers a year and growing normally. The gophers were beginning to undermine my foundation, so I put my tractor nearby with a hose from the exhaust into a hole which was directly underneath the camillia. I ran the tractor for a couple of hours. This successfully killed out the pests, but my camillia didn’t appreciate the oversaturation of the ground with exhaust. One other possibility is that the decaying gophers had an overwhelming effect on the plant. In any case the camillia is putting on LOTS of new growth, the leaves are coming in densely, but there are no longer any buds or flowers. Is the plant ruined, or will it come out of it and begin to flower again later?

  39. our camellia makes buds but they dry up and do not become flowers

    our camellia is watered three times a week

    is it perhaps to wet

  40. hi there, i live in auckland and planted Sasanqua camellia hedge around october november. since then 4 out of 12 have completely died and another 2 are not looking too good. all commentary regarding watering is vague for someone (me) who has no idea. how much is ‘water well’, or ‘likes water’ or ‘moderate drinkers’. sorry but this doesn’t mean anything to me. i heard somewhere 30 seconds per plant from hose is about right 3-4 times a week. or should i water every day for less. what does water deeply mean?
    thanks in advance.


  41. I have an approx. 10′ tall, 8′ diam. at least 20 yr. old camellia bush-tree that has nice foliage on the outer 1-2′ ft. perimeter that flowers but what appears to be dead material between it and the trunk. My thought is to clean it up leaving me with an extra special camellia specimen. Any words of wisdom?
    Thank you kindly.

  42. A tree fell on my Camilla bed with approx 50 old camilla’s! Some very special plants that had been grafted years ago! The contractor that removed the tree also dug up the whole plants!!! Root and all!!! Can I replant these plants with any luck of them surviving?

  43. It’s really advice I need. I have a camillia I brought over from London. I now live in Baguio , Philippines and my camilla bears flowers but when the flowers nearly opens up it just fall . WHAT am I doing wrong. Baguio is like summer in London. IT gets nice and cool during Dec. Maybe it’s not cold enough for the flowers to open up? I know camilla flowering time in London during spring. HOPEFULLY someone can help me with my camilla problem. THANK you in advance.

  44. I live in Milwaukee, WI I would love to plant a Camellia. Can I plant it in the container and bring it inside during Winter? If so then what kind of Camellia I should plant Thank you.

  45. Soil PH is probably most important. Soils that are sandy, etc. usually aren’t very acidic. Clay soil can be alkaline, etc.

    My Camelia only blooms in the bottom under neith. Needs to be trimmed when? Some one told me not after June here in Mid-Florida.

  46. I have a beautiful Camellia that has flowered better this year than any other it started out as a house plant about 20 years ago then i planted it in the garden. I just leave it to do its own thing but this year as its had so many flowers the garden is covered with the ones that have died. do I need to remove the dead flowers off the soil or can i just leave them and dig them in

  47. On Vancouver Island, our camellia has been in the ground two years. Beautiful blooms last year. None this year. Shrub is growing and seems healthy. What should I do? I think it’s too late to expect any blooms this year.

  48. I have 4 Japonica camellias and one each end of the Sasanqua camellias. They were planted 9 years ago and each season they are full of bloom. They are against 1 wall and face east. I live near the ocean in Mid north coast of NSW Australia. I am moving to another area and want to take a cutting of these. Can you tell me what to do and where to put in a pot. Some say put them around the outside of a pot. Do I need special soil to help them survive?

  49. I got a camellia bush for my Mom’s funeral it did not do well in the house it was just a green plant with dark leaves ,I have moved it outside and the leaves have become varigated light green,what is going on my yard is very dry and ground is like concrete it is still in pot what can I do to winter it

  50. My camellia flowers are too heavy for the branches to support. This causes immediate drooping even before the flowers fully open. What is the cause and cure for this condition?

  51. I would really like to see the answers to all the questions!
    I have been given a small camillia bought from a well known supermarket.
    It is bitterly cold here on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, so I intend to plant it outside in the Spring. What size of pot do I need? and where should I put it?

  52. Hi, I live in lakes region, NH and so want to have a low growing camelia tree with flowers that are full not single looking. Is there a pink variety that I can put in large pot in house to over winter? And what type of soil do I need. Saw one at Boston Flower show years ago but missed this year, can I send away for one? Any info you could give me would be greatly appreciated!!! Thank you, Gayle Serino

  53. Come on people. This is a COMMENTS area. Look at the dozens and dozens of other people who have left questions that have not been answered. Are you really going to leave another question (that has, probably, already been asked) and wait for YOUR question to be the one that gets a reply??

      • Hi, SE!
        We can’t answer all the questions we receive due to the high volume (2 million+ monthly visitors).
        However, selected questions do receive a moderator’s answer, as the comments form states. 🙂
        As always, we recommend submitting questions on this form for possible use on our radio show, podcast or social media:
        Thanks for visiting!

  54. Hi and great information.

    I have a pink flowering Camellia about 4 feet tall. I live in Yongin, South Korea. Do you think that it can survive the winters outside? Average temperatures are above freezing during the day and sometimes below at night.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here