Pruning Camellia Japonicas

camellia_courtneyFebruary 11, 2013

I've inherited several robust camellia japonicas at my new(ish to me) home and they desperately need pruning. Two questions: What is the best way to prune branches that are shooting straight up. And what should the foliage to trunk ratio be? Right now the trees are about 12 feet tall with three feet of bare trunk showing. Thank you!

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Can you post pictures of the branches that are shooting up? I can picture scenarios of that where I would not want to prune; pictures may help understand what the affected area looks like.

I have never officially read of this ratio that you mention but, I see pictures where some people let the trunk be bare only near the bottom few feet and others where they keep most of the foliage near the top a la Crape Myrtles here (so basically, you can choose what looks good to you!).

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 7:29PM
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Here is a photo of a couple of the trees. I guess in terms of the ratio, I'm wondering how far down (from the top) I should prune them. When we moved here two years ago, the camellias were pruned in perfect circles. They actually looked like lollipops. Since then they have grown two to three feet. My instinct is to pick a height and then do my best to find an appropriate place near that height to make the cut. How should I make the cut to encourage outward growth instead of so much upward growth. Do I have to cut to a place where two or more stems meet or can I cut just above a leaf? If for example three stems meet they are frequently all shooting straight up. If I cut one - say the middle one - the two others are still shooting two feet up! I hope I'm asking this in a semi-clear way! Thanks for your response!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:24PM
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Here's the photo!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:26PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

They look wonderful to me. Odd to see the sky above them! I have to grow all of mine under other trees because it is too hot over here.

To control upwards and sideways growth, you could try to pinch the ends when leaf out time begins for you. It makes them bushier but, I hear your pain, it is always hard to control any plant that tends to grow up when you want it to grow in a different direction. For example, April Blush might have been a better choice for the previous owner; it tends to grow up and round so it would be easier to keep in check.

The plant's tendency to grow upwards or to spread will influence where to cut but not how, especially if you want a round shape. My only concern usually is to prune the limb flush. Nubs could let unwanted visitiors in. After pruning, I would take pictures with a digital camera and review changes in about a month or two. If there is growth in a direction that I do not like then I do some light pruning to correct it.

If you want to make them look again like lollipops, you could use some yellow tape or a netting, shaped as you want so it helps you tell where to prune. Limiting the amount of nitrogen in the soil & in the fertilizer (the letter N in the NPK Ratio) could make the plant not grow as much as it has been growing. Usually, camellias are slow growers and varieties that are vigorous and that is being pruned roundish should get less nitrogen and should be frequently lightly pruned to keep/maintain a round shape.

Feel free to get one of those NPK Kits sold in some plant nurseries that help you determine if the soil has too much nitrogen. Not sure if the stores will have a good supply now but should by the start of Spring.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 9:39PM
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