Camelias for beginner gardener?

mmckinney(Z7 AL)April 22, 2005

I love double camellias. I would like to grow them but do not know how or which ones. Do they do better in full sun (west or south sides) or partial sun (east or north sides)? Our soil is "good old Alabama" red clay. Any suggestions?

Appreciate your help,


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forrestal(Gulf Coast z8b)

Mo ... Here in the "Camellia State" they do fine even in our red clay, especially the sandy clay. I have some that are growing well in sandy red clay. Let me stress to be sure the soil pH is slightly acid or the plant will not do well (depending on where you are in the state, your soil may be acid or it may be alkaline, be sure it is on the slightly acid side around 6.0). If the clay is hard, I have found that basic slag can be mixed in to soften it, but slag is alkaline so adjust accordingly. The two most important things I have found is (1) getting the pH right, and (2) planting high, making the planting hole wide and shallow, with the root ball a few inches above grade so it doesnt later settle below ground level. Then be sure to keep it well watered this summer, don't let it dry out, until it gets established -- then it will be very drought resistant. They do best in partial shade (high light shade is the best such as pine trees) but they can also be grown in full sun here (due to our humidity) with little problem. Check out the link below for more camellia growing tips. You will love them. ... Forrest

Here is a link that might be useful: Camellia Growing Tips

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 1:47PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Forrest... a question, if you don't mind. Why do you suggest basic slag rather than gypsum (which has a neutral pH)? Does the slag accomplish something that the gypsum does not?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 2:26PM
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forrestal(Gulf Coast z8b)

Well thats a good question! And I don't know the answer, since I have never tried gypsum. My soil is mostly imported fill dirt and "swamp muck." With hardpan clay only a few inches below that, which it practically takes a jackhammer to bust through. Its the sorryest stuff you ever saw. Of course, like most folks I thought soil was soil, and I planted everything before I learned the importance of pH and nutrients and consistency. I thought, now what? On the sticky swamp muck, I did a lot of reading and some smart people explained to me that top dressing with slag will somehow change the molecular properties of the sticky clay, so it wouldn't stick together so much, making the soil more fluffy and drain better. And by golly, it worked. (I didn't have the luxury of tilling anything into the soil.) It took a little time and I kept an eye on the pH since camellias prefer acid soil, but fortunately my pH was so acid anyway (near 4.0 in some places) it wasn't an issue for me, and it actually has produced the added benefit of bringing my pH back to within range in some of the "hottest" places.

In other places I have some sandy clay with good pH (also imported) and the camellias seem to love it. No slag was needed, since it was sandy enough with good loose consistency.

Incidentally my soil is so weird in places, there are days when the best solution seems like a bulldozer. For instance one spot is way too high in phosphate (nearly off the charts) it was toxic to camellias, and I have found no way to neutralize it, so I moved them. (The bulbs love it.) The bottom line is, I cannot use the same fertilizer in all areas of my garden. What a headache. I gradually am learning to literally "read the tea leaves" to determine what they need. Its like having a bunch of children (like 200) each with its own needs.

In any event, the slag has helped in the areas with heavy sticky clay content. I have come to the firm conclusion that camellias will grow in almost any soil, as long as they have (1) good pH around 6.0, and (2) very good drainage. (They even have been found growing wild in rocky outcroppings.) This is probably more than you wanted to read, but thats "the dirt" on my camellias!! I would appreciate hearing more about the gypsum. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 10:30PM
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Ok, I get the importance of the for the dumb question part. what sort of testing do you must have some sort of home kit....i bougt a kit from home depot....but it only had like one test for ph....i tested one spot and thought i was done...oh silly me!!!!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 12:16PM
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forrestal(Gulf Coast z8b)

How are things coming in Dothan with the new garden?? (By the way there are some great old camellia gardens there, and a new club soon, perhaps next season.) On the soil test, I have found it helpful to pick up one of the Auburn soil sample kits from a local nursery or county extension and mail it in, with samples from different parts of your yard or garden. The Auburn Ag Department will do a professional soil analysis and send you a nice looking print-out with all the detail, as well as suggestions for what you need to adjust your soil for the plants you want to grow. I think it costs around five dollars. Wish I had done that in the beginning !! Well worth it.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 9:26PM
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The garden in Dothan is getting there....I'm doing something in it everyday. I'm having a ball. I'm sure I'm making lots of mistakes, but hey...that's the only way this thick headed soul learns anything. I saw on your page that you say camellias bloom 9 months out of the year.....obviously you have many varieties to be able to do that. I just may look into joining that camellia club. Thanks for the tip!!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 2:51PM
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Sir, I have just joined the Garden Forum because a posting on a camellia problem popped up in 'Google' where I was frantically trying to get info on LEAF DROP in camellias. I have a C. jap. 'April Remembered' -- a heart-throb of a plant.

It's in acid soil, in semi-shade (a dappled bright shade), 2 feet from a wall facing east -- very sheltered.
It did beautifully, with multiple gorgeous blooms, many new leaves. Then I went away for a week, and came back and it has dropped most of its leaves, without there being any apparent disease (I've used Google to track sites discussing camellia disease/pests.)

It has good drainage, but not a really elaborate large hole.
But the leaves werent yellow, or twisted, or spotty or anything. Bright, shiny, normal and -- on the ground.

May I ask if LEAF DROP is normal? Is it seasonal? It's small branches do not seem to be diseased, and it appears to have tiny new leaves starting.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 1:54PM
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forrestal(Gulf Coast z8b)

This is the normal time of year for a Camellia to shed some of its old leaves, as new growth emerges, and yes they turn yellow then drop. From your description it sounds like the remaining leaves are okay, and the plant is putting on new leaves, right? If so, no problem. However, if there is defoliation all over, or on entire limbs, that is another matter. Lets cross our fingers and see if the plant isn't simply shedding old leaves.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 7:40PM
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drmab(z6 pa)

Hello, Rather belatedly,as a beginner with camellias, may I ask: when is it okay to transplant a camellia in Northern Florida - I think we're in zone 9a? i planted a camellia with a bougainvillea about 2 months ago, but I read that bougainvilleas will flower best if left rather dry and without much fertilizer, so i am wondering if I should separate these two plants/

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 9:14PM
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I just built a house in Oxford, AL (just 30 minutes east of Birmingham). My wife wants me to landscape our yard with tropicals (rather beach-like plants). I have always liked the oleanders and sago palms that I see in Destin, FL. I like that the oleanders are evergreen, bloom a long time, and get up over 10' high. But after some research, I have decided against using oleanders and think camelias may be an alternative. Where are some nurseries here in Alabama that would have a good selection?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 4:59PM
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My Camelia has been surviving for a couple of years but has brown around the many of the leaves. This has been going on for a while and I sprayed with fungucide without any results. Any help would be appreciated.


    Bookmark   December 15, 2010 at 2:16PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Happy holidays, Emilio. Browning of leaves could be caused by a various problems such as insufficient moisture, too much sun or excess salts. A picture of the shrub and of affected leaves (top and bottom) would help. Post the photos on a brand new thread. Luis

    Bookmark   December 15, 2010 at 8:49PM
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My camelia in a large plastic pot seems very healthy, dark green leaves and plenty of buds, but before they can flower many buds just drop off unopened. How can I prevent this? I live in south-western France, mild climate, plenty of sun but my camelia is in mottled shade. Any tips gratefully received

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 11:44AM
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I was told to prune after the flowering has stopped, is that right?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 12:13PM
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I have 2 camelias on the east side of my house. They seemed to be healthy but this year some of the leaves are yellow with black spots on them.
What is wrong with them, I would appreciate any information and suggestions that you might give me

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 11:49AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, Lloyd Linn. The black spots may be indicative of a fungal problem often caused by high humidity levels. In many cases, they do not cause much damage and self correct when summer weather patterns arrive. There is also a condition called camellia scab that can be controlled by maintaining the soil evenly moist as best as you can, planting the shrub so it gets afternoon shade. The yellowing in leaves is common in May, when camellias shed old leaves. Keep an eye on the shrub to confirm that nothing else is going on.

Hello Vickie Brown. Minor pruning can be done at any time; major pruning can be done when the plant has stopped flowering; severe or drastic pruning is best done around February, when the plant's dormant state will help minimize the shock.

Hello Anita. Bud drop can be caused by any one of several things. The most common one is weather. Wild temperature swings during the winter months can cause buds to drop. Freezing temperatures for long periods can also cause bud drop. Lack of moisture during the times that the plant has developed flower buds can also cause bud drop. Periods of drought followed by rain can trigger bud drop. In some cases, it may be necessary to grow camellias that bloom before or after winter to prevent problems caused by winter temperatures' wild fluctuations. Because the shrub is potted, I would also make sure that it is not in a windy location that may trigger the soil to dry out often. Lastly, the camellia bud mite can also cause bud drop (spray with a mitice as soon as the buds have set). It does tend to affect the look of the leaves, especially in the center.

Does that help you?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 2:14PM
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I have a red and a white Camillia the white Camillia has grown an apple type thing is this normal?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 2:56PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Yes. Sometimes called a camellia fruit, it is basically a container that holds seeds. Can be very rare in some camellia varieties. Camellias grown from seed will not necessarily look like the parent plant but can be interesting to plant and see what do you get.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 11:59PM
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