How to Grow Camellia Japonica

Written by cat mccabe
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How to Grow Camellia Japonica
Camellia japonica blossom (chaenomeles japonica image by Alexander Maksimov from

Camellia japonica is prized by gardeners for its large, showy, camellia-shaped blossoms and tough, glossy, dark-green leaves. Camellia japonica needs the right temperature, light, soil and moisture conditions in order to thrive. It has a long life but is a slow grower that will eventually reach a compact height of 7 to 12 feet, with a spread of 5 to 10 feet.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Garden gloves
  • Shovel
  • Peat
  • Sand
  • Sharp knife
  • Pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Choose a site for planting camellia japonica that will get at least eight hours of dappled sun each day. Planting under the canopy of a tall tree in a staggered formation rather than a hedgerow is ideal.

  2. 2

    Check the soil conditions. Camellia japonica can tolerate clay, but prefers loose, well-drained soil. Amend clay-based soil with equal parts of peat, sand and topsoil. Work it by hand until it is about a foot deep and thoroughly mixed. Work enough of the ground to plant bushes 3 to 5 feet apart.

  3. 3

    Dig holes with a shovel deep enough to accommodate the root balls of the plants. Pour water in the bottom of the hole to help ease transplant shock.

  4. 4

    Remove potted camellia japonicas from their containers by grasping the plant's trunk with one hand and pulling gently down on the edges of the pot with the other. If it doesn't come out easily, tap hard on the pot with your palm to loosen it, and try again. If the camellia japonicas are wrapped in burlap, simply cut them free with a sharp knife. Knock some of the soil from the root ball so that the roots can move freely, especially if the plants have become pot-bound.

  5. 5

    Place the camellia japonicas in the holes. If the base of the trunk is below the ground line, remove them and backfill the holes with more dirt until the trunk bases sit an inch above the ground line. Fill in soil around the edges and tamp down firmly with your foot to close air spaces around the roots. Water the transplanted plant thoroughly.

  6. 6

    Continue watering once a week throughout the next few months, more often if there is little rain in that period. Prune any dead or wilting branches as soon you see them. Clip lower shoots to expose the gnarly stems if you desire an ornamental, treelike shape.

Tips and warnings

  • Camellia japonica is pest resistant. If you notice bud drop or wilting, it's usually the result of too much or too little water.
  • Resist the impulse to prune camellia japonica into a formal hedge. It's natural shape is much prettier when left alone.

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