Camellia japonica is a hardy ericaceous evergreen tree / shrub that can be cultivated both outdoors and in, providing the soil is lime-free, and has a pH of around 5.5 - 6.5
The flowering period can be anytime from February to May depending upon the plant and weather conditions.
Camellia sasanqua, a mountain evergreen species from western Japan produces scented flowers in late autumn until January.
It has a variable habit, in as much as it can be either erect or spreading.
In about ten years from planting it will grow to around 2m (7ft) high with a similar spread.
In ideal conditions it could ultimately grow to a height and spread of about 6m by 3m (20ft by 10ft)
The broad elliptical, dark evergreen leaves grow up to 75mm (3") long.
Its single, cup-shaped, white, pink or red scented flowers grow to around 75mm (3") across.
Unfortunately, thet are vulnerable to frost damage in most parts of the UK.
Frost affected flower heads
It is sometimes seen in coastal districts of Devon, Cornwall, West Wales and Argyle in Scotland where the effect of the gulf stream is apparent.
Inland, they will sometimes grow successfully against a south facing wall, providing it is given protection from the hardest of winter conditions.
Early-flowering varieties in particular are best grown in 8-12 in. pots and small tubs containing a compost of 4 parts lime-free loam, 2 parts peat or leaf-mould, 1 part coarse sand (parts by volume) and 1 oz of bone meal per 9 litres.
Stand the pots or tubs outdoors in a sheltered, partially shaded position from May to October, then bring them into a cold greenhouse and maintain a temperature of 4-7°C (40-45F) until May.
Plants under glass will flower earlier if you increase the temperature by 5°C (10°F) from early December.
Dryness at the roots can prevent the proper development of the flower buds.
Keep the soil well watered, preferably with rainwater, in the autumn and even in winter if it becomes dry.
Similarly if grown indoors, regularly spray the developing buds with clean water.
Apply an ericaceous liquid feed in mid-spring and again in early summer, especially if the young leaves are prone to yellowing.
Dead-head plants after flowering.
Light soils should be enriched with leaf-mould.
Plants give the best results in a position with a westerly or sheltered northerly aspect against a wall, or in woodland where the high canopy of trees will give them protection from frost and early-morning sun.
They will thrive in sun, provided they have a cool root run, therefore a southern aspect should be avoided.
Shrub in bud
Shrub in Flower
In an east-facing position the morning sun after frost may damage the blooms, so if frost is forecast, throw some agro-fleece over the shrub/s to protect the buds.
Frost damage can cause a distortion of the leaves and browning of the buds.
They do not tolerate windy and exposed positions or waterlogged conditions.
Plant out in September and October or in March and April.
Before planting out, dig in well-rotted, acidic organic material such as composted pine needles or bracken.
On heavy ground, dig in grit and / or organic matter.
Excavate a hole large enough to accommodate all the roots, set the plant so that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil, then backfill the hole, and gently firm in.
Young plants may need staking until they are well established.
Feed if the plant needs it, but do not overfeed.
Camellias do not like any form of lime, therefore use a fertiliser which is designed for plants that need acid soil e.g. a solution of iron sequestrene.
Prune as necessary (see note below)
Apply a mulch of well rotted farmyard manure, leaf-mould, or lime-free compost about 50mm (2”) deep around the plant/s.
Stand the pots or tubs outdoors in a sheltered, partially shaded position.
Camellias are never easy to propagate but one can but try!
Select young side shoots, made this year, which have begun to harden and turn brown at their base (Semi-hardwood)
Take 100mm (4”) cuttings and remove lower leaves.
Remove a slither of bark from the side of the stem, to encourage rooting.
Dip cutting in hormone rooting powder and insert them in small pots filled with gritty compost.
Water, then place the cuttings in a heated propagator set at 18°C (65°F) or cover the pot with a polythene bag to conserve moisture, until rooted, this may take two or three months.
Alternatively, take leaf bud cutting later on in the year.
Take leaf bud cuttings.
Select a shoot that has grown this year and is now firming up at the base.
Trim the shoot/s with a sharp pair of secateurs or knife into sections 25mm (1”) long, each bearing a mature leaf and small growth bud.
Dip base of cutting into a hormone rooting gel/powder to assist rooting before inserting into a well-drained peat compost containing sharp sand, grit or perlite so that leaf is just above the compost.
Maintain a rooting temperature of 21°C (70°F)
C. reticutlata and its varieties do not root easily, although they may succeed under mist propagation.
Plant out newly purchased plants in an acid soil, (pH 5.5-6.5) in a position with a westerly or sheltered northerly aspect.
Check the soil pH prior to planting out and adjust it accordingly.
Alternatively plant out from Week 10-15 if weather conditions allow.
Fetch pots into a cool greenhouse and maintain a temperature of 4-7°C(40-45F) until May.
Ensure you water them regularly.
A shortage of moisture at the root can cause bud drop.
Give plants an ericaceous liquid feed if foliage looks pale or yellow.
Increase the temperature by 5°C (10°F) for plants growing under glass and they will flower earlier.
Normally very little pruning is needed, occasionally it may be necessary to remove badly positioned, weak, or damaged shoots.
Such pruning should be done as new growth is beginning to appear in spring or immediately after flowering.
Old / neglected plants should be renovated by cutting back branches to 600mm (24”) from the ground, ideally, spread this work over a period of two / three years i.e. cut back one main branch each year to prevent excessive stress on the plant/s.
Disorders of various types can occur e.g. cold night temperatures may cause a browning of the leaves.
Soil that is too alkaline may cause small dark brown or black spots to develop on the leaves, which may be a poor shade of green, and slightly puckered round the spots.
Some domestic water supplies contain lime (hard water).
In such areas, use collected rainwater, in the event that this is not practical, it is better to use hard water rather than to let plants suffer for lack of water.