Its Camellia Time!

Care of Camellias in Spring

September/October is the month we should be enjoying our Camellias, the fruits of our labors should be ripening and/or have been picked. Provided that is, that your plant received the care and attention required throughout the preceding year. It is also a time of the year that there is plenty of work to be carried out.

Spring is upon us and it is wise to be making preparations for the maintenance needed.

Remember this thought!

The flowering performance, i.e. – flower size, quantity and quality of your camellia blooms for the next season is dependent on the health, vigor and strength during its growth cycle this spring.

It is on spring growth that next year’s flowers are formed.So if you leave repotting, pruning and fertilizing late in spring the health of your Camellia’s will have already determined how good your flowers will be in the next flowering season.

In other words don’t leave these jobs too late, give the new spring root system new soil and a good nutrient supply to maximize the performance of your Camellias.

 When to repot your camellia:

– Best carried out from April to October.

– Optimum timing April & May and August & September.

Frequency of potting

– Must be based on how the plant is performing.

– Must be carried out before the plant slips into poor condition.

– Rough guide repot every 2 to 3 years for pots under 400mm and 3-5 years for pots over 400mm.

Signs of the plant needing repotting:

– Obvious congestion of roots on the soil surface, especially towards the edge of the pot.

– Old leaves going yellow.

– Poor performance, small flowers and short spindly growth.

– Abundance of buds and buds not opening fully (over budding).

– Persistent insect and disease problems.

– Potted plants will dry out quickly.


– Don’t over pot i.e. don’t increase pot size too far but ensure the repotting increases the roots exposure to fresh potting soil.

– Compensate any root damage or root pruning that has taken place with pruning and shaping the plant, it is quite reasonable to reduce the size of the plant by up to a third.

– Root pruning is a technique where you reduce the size of the root ball to repot into the same pot it came out of.


– Always look for the best quality premium Potting mix preferably an Acidic Potting Mix.

– If planting in the garden improve your soil with generous quantities of well composted organic material, there are lots of bagged organic compost available, we sell and recommend shredded composted pine bark this builds soil acidity and improves soil structure.

– It is essential to ensure excellent drainage and porosity of your garden soil.

 When to Apply Fertiliser:

– When your plant is healthy between August and May.

– When the soil is moist.

– When repotting and after planting.

Why we Fertilise:

– To supply the plant with (N) Nitrogen (P) Phosphorus and (K) Potassium, a fertilizer should also contain essential trace elements.

– To maintain strong, vigorous growth and enhance the performance of flowering.

– To maintain and improve the health and appearance of the plant.

What to Fertilise with:

Two basic philosophies-

– Chemical based fertiliser such as slow release e.g. Osmocote or Bailey’s Apex, is favored for pot culture. Always ensure the granules are covered with a layer of soil or mulch.

– Organic fertiliser is best for the in-ground situation, e.g. Kahoona is an organic based Camellia food well suited for the garden situation.

– Soil pH plays its part, we can test your soil sample the establish your pH level.

What to avoid:

– Over fertilising this can come about through too much applied too often.

– Shallow watering, hence fertilizer salts build up in your soil and burn the roots.

– Applying to dry soil, so always water in after applying


– Optimum time is August/September, another pruning can take place in January just before the second cycle of growth starts.

– Never prune heavily in late Autumn/early Winter.

 Why we Prune Camellias:

– To Shape the plant and improve bushiness.

– To stimulate growth in certain parts of the plant.

– To remove damaged or diseased branches and to revitalize an ailing plant.

– As one means of disbudding.

– To improve the flowering performance.

– To compensate loss of root system after either transplantation or repotting.


Fortunately there isn’t any spraying to do now, however be on the lookout for the buildup of pests.

Things that you can do to reduce insect pests:

– Spray with Pest Oil through Autumn, Winter and Spring.

Avoid using when temperatures over 30 degrees C.

– Remove old leaves and flowers from underneath your plants.

– Clean around your plants eliminating any weeds growing near by.

– Examine nearby shrubs and trees for either existing insect infestation or evidence of previous damage. You may need to prune these plants back and or spray to reduce the likely hood of cross contamination.

– Keep your spraying to the minimum and use the least toxic sprays you can, however if a problem arises have your problem identified and treat the problem before it builds up.

-In spring look out for Caterpillars. Aphids and Scale are the main offenders.

Mavrik is a good go to spray where Pest Oil is not keeping the bugs in check.


Spring is a very important time of the year, a plant under stress at this time may have their performance affected for the whole year.

– Ensure your soil is free draining; rectify the situation if the soil doesn’t drain freely.

– Give a deep soak every few days rather than daily frequent light watering.

– Vary the frequency according to the weather and temperature, let the soil surface tell you when to water.

– Water in the mornings to increase humidity for daytime.

– Watch for water flow from base of the pot as evidence the soil is saturated.

– Avoid “Water Well” pots.

– Hose foliage and surroundings in very hot weather to maintain or increase humidity.

– Always mulch your Camellia’s, whether they are in pots or the ground.

We are always excited when its the beginning of our camellia season and  sasanquas start to put on a show.

Our most frequently asked Camellias questions:

Why grow Camellias?

Because they are beautiful winter flowering plants and secondly they fit well into any garden scheme. Camellias are the choicest winter flowering plant in cultivation. They can be used as individual garden specimens, in tubs, or creatively used as espalier, hanging baskets or topiary specimens. So as you can see they are extremely versatile.  C. japonicas flower from May to September and it would be difficult to find many other plants that would fit into as many situations.

How often should I water my camellias?

More plants are killed by over watering than by any other cause. Camellias enjoy one or two deep soaking s a week; this is preferable to light frequent sprinklings. The deep soakings assist in carrying away accumulated salts which can build up from fertilizer use. The periods between watering allow the roots to breath.

What are the main characteristics of Camellia japonica?

As roses fade from view bright camellia blooms are always ready and waiting. Beautiful evergreen and prolific flowering japonicas are the most popular and largest group grown in Adelaide, easily recognized by their neat glossy dense green foliage.  Plants will grow into a large garden bush or can be easily maintained as a tub specimen.  Flowers will last for many weeks depending on the prevailing weather unlike camellia sasanqua which will blow away in a breeze.

What are their soil requirements?

Good drainage is essential. They prefer a soil which has high humus content, described as an acid soil with a pH of around 5.5 to 6.5. This soil can be purchased in bags from your local garden centre or alternatively mix your own using course sand, loan, peat moss and well rotted compost. Remember your soil will be well worth your investment, it will mean the difference between a healthy plant or a struggling unhappy plant.

Should I mulch my camellias?

Yes! This will help keep the top soil layer moist and cool. Please mulch your whole garden especially with our new water conservation laws.  We use pea straw, but the sky is the limit use what ever is easy and cost efficient for you.  Shredded pine bark is every attractive with its dark brown finish and will also improve your soils condition. Make sure that you keep the mulch a few inches form the trunk of all your plants.

Can I prune my camellias?

Most camellias are tidy growers but when necessary they love to be pruned. If you are cutting flowers to display inside this will help your camellia bush to remain a dense compact shape.  If your camellia have got too tall it’s easy to carefully prune the top foliage.  Camellias respond well to a prune for shape immediately after flowering season, which is mid to late September.

Do camellias grow in sun?

Camellia sasanqua are the early autumn flowering variety that will tolerate a sunnier position as long as your mulching, watering and soil preparation is attended to.

If you would like to grow a C. japonica in a sunnier position you must make sure that you have selected a hardier variety, eg Great Eastern The Czar or the Emperor of Russia. In general the darker red blooms are tougher and happier in more sun than the paler softer coloured varieties.

 When do I fertilise my Camellias?

If you would like to achieve optimum growth fertilise in early spring and again in mid summer. Fertilizers such as slow release Osmocote are easy to use and perfect for plants grown in containers.  In the garden situation an organic fertilizers such as Blood and Bone or any of the commercial Camellia Azalea fertilizers or well aged chicken, sheep, cow or pig manure can be useful, the best advise is don’t over do it! Always follow a feeding with a good watering.

Can I move my camellia?

Of course you can! However timing is important and the best time is in late autumn through winter. Large plants can be moved by taking the root ball equivalent to the size of the top foliage. You will find that camellias have surface roots, so if you damage a few and this is quite possible make sure that you prune the top foliage to compensate for root loss. Make sure that you have your new home ready and place it facing the same direction as it was growing.  Easily done by marking east with a tag before moving. Remember to give your moved camellia a deep soaking.

arris, June 15th, 2016

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