Camellia trees are such a diverse plant, and an absolute beauty for the garden. If you’ve ever received or bought one, you know that the flowers are always stunners, not to mention it creates a lovely hedging plant or border for the garden!
Best areas to grow
Camellias are suitable for growing throughout New Zealand. They are generally hardy, meaning that they are fairly easy to look after – however still require the love and attention any living thing needs – so don’t forget them!
Sun and shade
Camellias prefer semi-shade, but some can withstand full sun if cared for while establishing (by watering and mulching over the summer). Protect your Camellia from frosts, particularly when young. Either keep them inside, or use frost protection.
Soil & Feeding
Camellias prefer an acidic soil, so use specialised fertilisers suitable for this type of plant. If you are planting into the ground, dig some broken down compost into the soil before planting. If planting in pots, use specific potting mix and slow-release fertiliser. It’s best to feed when the last flowers are coming to an end using a specific Camellia food that you can find from your local plant store. Organic plant food like Nitrosol Organic can stimulate biological activity in the soil and act like a one-off ‘treat’ for your plant.
Camellias are reasonably hardy but still thirsty! Be sure to water them regularly, particularly throughout the hot summer months. You can add mulch around the base of the plant – but be sure not to touch the trunk with it – to help keep the moisture in during the warmer months.
Most Camellias flower over the winter months from early winter to late spring – so their beautiful blooms are a welcome addition to any garden – particularly on those cold winter days when you need a little brightening up!
Camellias are best moved in winter – even if they are flowering they should be fine with re-potting, or transferring into the garden.
While we may like to get trigger-happy with the pruning tools, it’s important to be aware that Camellias may be prone to bacterial disease which can enter through exposed and freshly pruned areas. Best practice includes keeping your tools clean, and for larger cuts you can dress them with something like Yates Bacseal to help protect them.
Dealing with issues
The following is a list of issues that you may experience with your Camellias, and some suggestions on how to deal with them:
- Yellow, or dark purple leaves: Generally suggests a lack of fertiliser. Fertilise with specific Camellia food available from your local store. As mentioned previously, do this after the flowering finishes and before new growth begins.
- Yellow leaves with green veins: Camellias like acidic soil. This suggests the soil has become too alkaline so again, fertilise with specific Camellia food.
- Light brown or white coloured spots or blotches on the petals: This suggests that the flowers are diseased, so remove the bad flowers and spray with a systemic fungicide. It may have been cause by watering over the plant (leaves and flowers) at not just at the base of the plant, so be careful about where you are watering the plant.
- Leaves appear thick, fleshy and pale green – or become white and pink: Especially if they gain a powdery appearance during wet weather, remove and burn all the infected parts as they could affect other plants. Spray with systemic fungicide.
- Black sooty mould on leaves and twigs: Generally this is accompanied by scale insects – for these you will need to spray the plant with an insect and mite spray specifically for flowering plants.
- Yellow leaves that are mottled or stippled: Particularly if they appear to be dehydrated in hot, dry weather: you have mites! Spray with a specific mite killer from your local garden shop.
- Browny-black little specks appear on the underside of the leaves and the leaves are dry and silvery: This suggests that your plant has thrips – minute, slender insects with fringed wings that feed on a large variety of plants and animals by puncturing them and sucking up the contents. Ew right?! Spray with insecticide every 2-3 weeks throughout the summer.
- Clusters of white insects that appear to be on the new growth: This suggest that you have the nasty bane of every gardener – Aphids, a.k.a. plant lice! Spray with systemic insecticide every 2 weeks and this should get rid of the little pests!
Did you know?!
Camellias are of special significance to New Zealanders – white camellias were the symbol of New Zealand women’s right to vote and along with Kate Sheppard, are featured on our ten dollar note!
Camellia hybrid ‘Nicky Crisp’
A popular hybrid with a slow, compact growth habit and large semi-double, pale, lavender-pink blooms. It makes a lovely hedge or specimen plant for the back of the border. Grows to approximately 1.5 metres in height.
Camellia sasanqua ‘Paradise Belinda’
A quick-growing selection with large single glowing pink flowers, of up to 11cm in diameter. Ideally suited for formal and informing hedging and screens. It does well in both sun or shade. Grows to approximately 2.5 metres in height.
Camellia sasanqua ‘Paradise Venessa’
A vigorous upright grower with large brilliant white, flushed pink, semi-double blooms. It will bloom from Autumn through Winter, and is ideally suited to large hedges or screens. Grows to approximately 2 metres in height.
Camellia japonica ‘Takanini’
A vigorous plant with deep purplish red, small to medium anemone form double blooms, that flower over a long period. Great for hedging or screening. Japonicas have been cultivated for their ornamental value for over 300 years, originating, as the name suggests, from Japan – as well as Korea and China. Grows to approximately 2 metres in height.
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Do you have some tips to add for growing beautiful Camellias? Share and comment below!