Container camelias not blooming well

Sharon4457March 26, 2007

I have two camelias that I've in in containers for about 2 years. They are great looking plants...dark green leaves...very healthy. However, at most, I get one bloom per each. They are in the correct sunlight, but I don't think I've fertilized them in the past. Could that be the problem? The containers are big and the plants small in comparison, so I know they're not root bound.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, Sharon4457. Why do you think the camellias are root bound? In a root bound scenario, the plant's roots grow in a circle around the edges of the pot, and growth would be stunted as the plants eventually extract all the important minerals from the potting soil. As such, the plant would not be healthy and would not be "great looking" as you said.

Absent any pest problems, I would consider these possibilities: lack of nutrients, inconsistent moisture levels and weather issues.

1. Potting soil does not naturally contain nutrients so you have to fertilize "often" to add or replenish nutrients, most of which leech out due to constant watering. I wish I could define "often" for potted camellias but all my camellias are planted in the ground. They are fed cottonseed meal three times (March, May and September) per year. Other people use a general-purpose inorganic fertilizer with a NPK Ratio of 10-10-10 or so.

2. Inconsistent moisture levels can affect the number and quality of buds. By inconsistent, I mean dry spells followed by wet spells. Try to water on a schedule and maintain 2-3" of mulch to keep the soil moist and consistently humid. This is most important from the time when flower buds form in September until the buds open (which can be as late as mid-to-late spring for some varieties). You can check moisture levels by inserting a finger to a depth of 2-3 inches and take action accordingly. And continue watering during winter.

3. Weather can sometimes affect the buds. Early cold spells or temps that rise/plunge a lot fast can kill buds. This year, I had below par flower production that also was delayed from the normal December-January period all the way to two weeks ago! All because of freak cold spells last December. Bringing the plant into a protected winter location would help.

Note: I did not consider the possibility of pests because you indicated that the plants were very healthy looking. Infestations of Camellia Bud Mites would cause buds to drop but, with these infestations, you would also loose some foliage, the foliage would look grayish and you would notice mite webs.

Lastly, there could be something else going on. Your description of the problem did not state whether your plants are producing flower buds & whether the flower buds are still in the plant. I assumed the answer was 'yes'. Care to comment on the flower buds?


Here is a link that might be useful: American Camellia Society

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 4:17AM
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I grow camelias in containers and have had wonderful bloom for 5 years. I feed them only two things - cottonseed meal and pure worm castings. I get literally hundreds of blooms on each plant and have had no disease or infestations.

I'm wondering if you have your camelias in large enough pots?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 10:44AM
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cattknap, cud u please post a picture of ur camellias in the pots so that i can get an idea of how big a pot i shud get.

i wud love to grow camellias but dont have the perfect spot for them and hence have to grow them in a container. which hybrid/cultivar do u have?

and lastly where do u get cottonseed meal and pure work castings?


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 8:15PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Organic minded nurseries carry all kinds of meals (like cottonseed meal) and worm castings. Cattle and feed stores also tend to carry these (here). Local nurseries sometimes carry them. HD/Lowes do not sell them here in Texas.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 4:17AM
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Suggest you fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer NOW- they set bud in May & June. If they are exposed to freeze or wind during winter, any buds will dry up and fall off. When in a pot, fertilizer gets washed away, so needs to be fertilized. Not a lot for camellias but others need more than anything planted in ground.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 12:28PM
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hello, everyone, would corn meal have the same nutrients as cottonseed meal? also, how much do you put on the plant? thanks for your help.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 10:14PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

They are made from different things. Corn meal is made from corn kernels while cottonseed meal comes from the cotton seeds. Their uses vary as well.

Corn meal is used for its antifungal properties while cottonseed meal is a slow-release fertilizer. I would apply 1/4 to 1/2 cup cup of cottonseed meal to a small camellia.

I have not tried the corn meal here because my pooches would eat it and would dig up the surrounding soil. Oh, my goodness.... those baby girls..... sigh!


    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 1:53AM
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hello, Luis, thanks for the info. I used the cornmeal as fungicide around my roses and the birds ate most of it. nonetheless I have fewer rose leaves with black spots. I have looked for cottonseed meal here in canada, have been unsuccessful so far.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2007 at 8:29PM
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Just wanted to give an update on the camelias. I repotted and fertilized and they have blooms. Thanks for all the advice!!!!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 12:05AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

That is great news Sharon! Post pictures to celebrate the bloomage (if you can)!

Remember to water during dry winters too (maybe once a week or once every two weeks) if your soil does not freeze. I turned off the automatic sprinkler when the temps went below freezing and forgot to re-activate it just as a dry spell started. After close to a month of no water, the plants' leaves began browning out and I lost many flower buds. But I noticed problem in time so no plants actually died from lack of water. Now, I try to keep an eye on soil moisture during winter too.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 3:12AM
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