She has a reputation for being tricky to care for. In fact, the Japanese camellia is not capricious, as long as significant aspects of its cultivation are taken to heart.
Planting Japanese Camellia
Camellia japonica, the Japanese camellia or common camellia, has proven itself as the ideal Camellia for the garden.
From the age of 4 years, this species has become so well established that it can withstand the rigors of winter and withstand temperatures as low as 5 °F (-15 °C) in a sheltered location. The best time to plant an outdoor camellia is in April.
Planting succeeds across the board in these steps:
- Dig a planting pit with twice the volume of the root ball.
- Create a drainage system at the bottom of the pit using inorganic, lime-free materials.
- Mix the excavation with rhododendron soil, compost, and a little sand.
- Fill in the substrate to place the potted Japanese camellia in it.
The soil mark on the Japanese camellia indicates the ideal planting depth.
Before watering, spread a protective layer of mulch. Perfect for this purpose is a mixture of leaves, straw, and compost.
If you plant several Japanese camellias next to each other, consider an expected growth width of up to 6 ft (1.8 m) when measuring the planting distance.
Key items in the proper care of a Japanese camellia are an adequate water supply and balanced nutrients. This is what matters:
- Never let a Japanese camellia dry out completely.
- If the substrate dries out, water with lime-free water.
- During the growth phase from May to July, spray the plant regularly with lukewarm rainwater.
- From the end of May to mid-July, fertilize weekly with rhododendron fertilizer at half the normal concentration.
- Regularly cleaning out withered areas will attract more flowers.
To encourage abundant branching, prune a young Japanese camellia back a little immediately after flowering. When doing so, prune about 1 inch (2 cm) above a bud to prevent it from drying out.
If an older specimen develops a sparse appearance, bring the ornamental shrub back into shape with pruning.
Which Location is Suitable for Japanese Camellia?
A prudent choice of location sets the stage for the successful cultivation of Japanese camellias.
The greatest danger to the flowering shrub is late frosts. Therefore, camellias in pots as well as in beds should be placed in a protected location, for example, against a wall or pergola.
These site conditions provide ideal conditions for lavish flowering and vital growth:
- Semi-shaded light conditions with sunshine in the afternoon.
- Protected from strong winds and pelting rain.
- Nutrient-rich, humus-rich, well-drained soil.
- A slightly acidic pH of 5 to 5.5.
For a Camellia japonica to bloom, it needs a cold spell. If you mean too well and place the camellia in a warm living room or intensively heated conservatory, you will look in vain for a bloom.
At constant temperatures between 43 and 50 °F (6 and 10 °C), the buds unfold for a flowering period lasting up to 6 weeks.
When is Flowering Time for Japanese Camellia?
The flowering period of Japanese camellias extends from February/March to April/May. In a mild winter, this Camellia species delights us with its splendid flowering already from January.
If the conditions meet their expectations, the Japanese camellia blooms for up to 6 weeks without interruption.
Watering a Japanese Camellia
Proper watering of Japanese camellias requires a little tact. On the one hand, the root ball should be constantly moist, on the other hand, waterlogging proves to be absolutely deadly.
In addition, the conditions at the site determine the water requirement. A sunny placed Japanese camellia evaporates a greater amount of moisture than a plant in a shady, cool location.
Here’s how to water the Japanese camellia properly:
- Water abundantly and thoroughly from spring through fall.
- If the thumb test proves a dry substrate surface, water the plant.
- Use collected rainwater, pond water, or decalcified tap water.
- During the growing months of May through July, additionally spray the plant with lukewarm water every few days.
- It is better to water intensively once a week instead of a little every day.
- Pour out a tub saucer after 20-30 minutes at the latest.
In winter, the need for water is reduced, without coming to a complete standstill. At this time of year, it is essential to avoid complete drying of the root ball.
This premise applies equally to Camellia japonica in the bed and tub. If the winter season comes with bare frost, when low temperatures keep the snow out, water your camellias on a frost-free day.
The Japanese camellia got its reputation as a sensitive flowering diva because sometimes she throws off her flowers.
However, this problem is due to failures in care. In fact, Camellia japonica in particular proves to be hardy and resilient.
If health problems occur, it is usually the camellia plague (Sclerotinia camellia) that is behind it. This is the fungal infection Ciborinia camelliae, which can be recognized by the following symptoms:
- The sticky fungal spores exclusively infect the flowers.
- Where the mycelium gains a foothold, it germinates rapidly, the flower turns brown and falls off.
- The fungi die on the foliage or shoots without causing any damage.
An effective control agent has not yet been discovered. At the first sign of infection, the affected petals need to be cut off and disposed of in the household waste.
Under no circumstances should you put the spore carriers in the compost because from here they continue to spread.
Repotting Japanese Camellia
The leisurely growth rate of a Japanese camellia only requires a change to a larger container every 2 to 3 years. Repot the plant only when the roots start to push through the substrate.
The best time to do this is right after flowering in the spring. Here’s how to do it right:
- The new pot should be a maximum of 2 inches (6 cm) larger in diameter.
- Spread a drainage of clay shards or expanded clay above the water drainage in the soil. Do not use calcareous gravel.
- Fill in fresh bog soil up to half the height of the pot.
- Now unpot the Camellia japonica and place it in the center of the new pot.
- Plant it exactly as deep as it was in the previous pot and water it.
We recommend placing an air- and water-permeable fleece between the drainage and the substrate. This will prevent soil crumbs from clogging the material.
If you favor your own mixtures as planting soil, the following recipe has proven successful: one-third of each garden soil, peat, and compost, enriched with a little sand for good permeability.
Is the Japanese Camellia Hardy?
The extent to which a Japanese camellia is hardy is a matter of controversy among experts. The fact is that the species Camellia japonica, in particular, can survive an outdoor winter with good care and proper precautions.
In regions with mild winters or in a sheltered, semi-shaded to shaded location, a Japanese camellia proves hardy with the help of these protective measures:
- Mound it with a layer of leaves, straw, bark mulch, and compost at least 8 inches (20 cm) thick.
- Provide a tent-shaped windbreak made of reed mats or coniferous branches, padded with foliage.
- Use a cover of jute or garden fleece.
- Wrap a tub thickly in bubble wrap and place on wood or Styrofoam.
It is not so much the cold that causes winter damage to a Camellia japonica. Instead, the ornamental shrub should be protected from the blazing morning sun in the winter, as it does considerable damage to the already established buds and dries up the rich green foliage.
- Debbie: a Camellia japonica with lush, bright pink double flowers.
- Mary Williams: A noble variety for the winter garden with semi-double, pink flowers and a bushy habit.
- Bonomiana: A stunning ornamental variety with pink-red striped flowers contrasting with evergreen leaves.
- White Swan: A conditionally hardy camellia with semi-double, brilliant white flowers.
- Adolphe Audusson: This variety convinces with robust frost hardiness and deep red, semi-double flowers up to 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter.
- Barbara Clark: A delicate Japanese camellia beauty whose soft pink flowers bloom from January to April.
- Caryophylloides: A British classic from 1848 whose pink flowers are dark red in color.
- Chameleon: It presents its semi-double, bright red flowers from March to May.
- New Dawn: An autumn-flowering camellia from France with wavy petals in pink starting in October.
- Narumigata: This variety unfolds white blooms in the winter garden from October to January.