Hardy Camellia Plant

JaeJMay 20, 2013

Hi, IâÂÂm hoping you all can help me. I bought a townhouse ten years ago. The previous owner had pulled up all the plants in the small backyard/courtyard, covered the dirt with plastic, and covered the plastic with ornamental white stones.

I simply added potted trees and plants around the periphery of my courtyard. After a couple years, I removed the plastic because several of my tree/plants had grown right through their pots and the plastic (donâÂÂt ask me how) into the ground. At that time, I noticed a small plant growing through the plastic as well; it was clearly leftover roots of a plant that had been chopped off and left to die when the yard was covered. My friend, who was helping me garden, thought it was so pretty I should keep it. So I did. Everyone just called it âÂÂPamâÂÂs plantâ after my friend who saved it from being uprooted as a weed.

The bush continued growing and did make a pretty shrubbery. Now, I donâÂÂt water a lot. I try to get low maintenance plants because IâÂÂm away on business so much. But last spring, my sister planted a rosebush into the ground near the shrub, so the shrub began getting more water, just because of its location.

Imagine my shock when I noticed two tight buds on it one day late last summer. After nine years! It finally bloomed in autumn (after an interminable amount of time), and the flowers were GORGEOUS. Really drop-dead gorgeous white and pink dense peony-like flowers. Much denser layers of blossoms than most camellia images I've seen, to be frank, which is why it took so long for me to identify the plant.

So, I did some research and now I know the shrub is a camellia plant; I live in Sacramento, the âÂÂCamellia City,â which apparently has a soil that camellias love. In the course of my research, IâÂÂve learned that camellias are typically a very fragile plant (!) that need constant watering (again, !).

So, IâÂÂve been watering it every day, hoping that I will get more flowers this year. My question is: how many flowers can I expect? How often does it bloom? What should I be doing to help it flower more often and more profusely?

Thank you so much for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing your advice.

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stuckinthedirt(6b VA (Shenandoah Valley))

Hi JaeJ,
Wonderful story! So how did those trees get through the plastic? I don't know, but probably the same way they can get through a sidewalk.
As for your camellia, I'd suggest NOT watering every day. From all I've read, your can kill a plant that way; root rot, etc. If it could survive being smothered under plastic, and ignored for ten years, it shouldn't need any help from you.
Hope it gives you blooms for many years.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 11:27PM
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Thank you, Ed. I think you are probably right. My plants tend to do better when I ignore them :) Don't ask me why. I think I must be a 'helicopter mother" to my flowers and plants.

I was just hoping to get more camellia blossoms this year. I'd like to have enough to make a bouquet; they are soooo beautiful.

Do you know if the camellia typically blooms only once a year? If memory serves, it was pretty late summer before it budded last year, and it took a really long time -- a couple of months, I think -- to bloom once it had budded. I was hoping it had a couple blooming seasons, like my rose bush, which blooms twice a year -- first in spring with 4-5 roses, then more spectacularly at the end of summer, with as many as 10-12 roses.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 5:27AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Except for Camellia Azalea, camellias bloom only once a year. To get more bloomage, I plant different varieties that bloom earlier or later. But once a bush is done flowering, that is it.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 7:31AM
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So, I was very disappointed to not see any camellia buds this year. It was a relatively cool September and October, as well, so I figured I might get some blooms a little earlier in the year.

Now, just this weekend, I went outside to check the plant again -- my sister and I had written all the plants off as in 'hibernation' for the winter just a day or two earlier. We had deadheaded and cleaned up, and figured we'd not be seeing anything till next April.

Well, wouldn't you know it. On Sunday -- the end of October -- my camellia plant sprouted two teensy weensy little buds overnight. Since then, each time I go out to water, I find another teeny little bud.

There are five now!

But I am really worried that they are just now budding so late in the year. The blossoms were enormous this time last year, and it still took another month or two for them to bloom. Is there anything I should be doing to protect them since they are getting such a late start this year?

It seems as though it's going to be a cooler year than last year. Temps are mostly in the low eighties right now, sinking down to the fifties, occasionally as low as the forties, at night. At what temps should I start to worry, and what should I do to ensure it doesn't get so cold that it kills off the buds before they can bloom?

Again -- it takes FOREVER for these buds to bloom, even at ten times the size they are now. It may well be December or January before these buds bloom as late as they are getting started. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 7:43PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Unfortunately, Mother Nature does not follow the script as well as we would like. I have had plants that bloom in early to mid winter decide they are going to be late in some years and finally bloom in March. So, do not fret much when this happens. I find over here that the biggest problem to the flower buds is temperatures that zip up or crash often. Being in Sacramento with a Zone of 9 says to me that you can enjy Halloween, go to bed and not have camellia nightmares! Problems arise in the low 20s or below.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 8:58PM
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Thank you so much. I've been so worried that, after the gift of five (and counting!) camellia buds so late in the year, the cold weather would kill them off before they bloomed.

But you're right. It's extremely unlikely to get down to the twenties here, even at night!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 9:34PM
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vmr423(Zone 8b, SC)

Your camellia came back from its roots within the last 10-11 years, right? So it's really just reaching its (second) maturity now. The regular watering due to your sister's rose probably helped, but my guess is that it would have eventually bloomed anyway.

Camellias are not fragile plants, and only need regular watering when first getting established- during their first 2 years. I don't know where you are, but in places with moderate temperatures and rainfall, older camellias can be completely ignored and will still bloom for months each winter.

Camellias do respond well to a little attention such as regular watering during dry spells, a good mulch (pine straw is commonly used here in the Southeast), and an annual feeding after they bloom. Also, they are shade-loving, but do need some sunlight to bloom well.

Your camellia is obviously older than 10 years, but has recently been putting its energy into re-establishing its roots and leaves- it's only just getting around to producing flowers, and my guess is that you'll have more and more flowers each year as it reaches maturity for the second time... Since your camellia has only recently become active again, its blooming "schedule" may not be re-set yet. Some camellias are already blooming now, but most bloom in winter, and some not until spring.

That said, camellias seem to be a bit delayed here with buds and blooms. We had an unusually mild winter here last year- perhaps that has something to do with it.

I also wanted to add that camellias aren't quite like once-blooming roses. A mature healthy camellia will bloom for more than a few weeks- most will bloom at least 2-3 months before quitting, and some will even go 4-5 months...

Sorry to ramble on- I hope you'll post a photo of the flowers when it does bloom.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 3:00PM
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I have a Camellia japonica 'Spring's Promise' that normally starts blooming around Halloween, peaks around Thanksgiving, and finishes in April. That means it is blooming in as many as seven consecutive months! That's BLOOM POWER! It has stunning foliage that is better than average. It thrives in direct summer sun, but winter sun can discolor its leaves. Partly open flowers are very freeze tolerant as long as sun does not strike the frozen flowers. Most of my varied camellias are giving birth to seedling "volunteers".
JaeJ need not worry about even a cold night in Sacramento. It is highly unlikely you'll ever have cold damage on your camellia. Just NEVER shear your camellia in summer or you'll likely lose some of your fall/winter bloom. Many camellias initiate buds as early as late May and June.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 6:21PM
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vmr423(Zone 8b, SC)

Palmfan, your 'Spring's Promise' really delivers! I noticed that you said it usually starts about Halloween- is it a little late this year like ours are in SC? Would love to see photos, if you've got 'em to share.

JaeJ, I missed that you are in Sacramento. Pffft! Cold damage isn't too likely then. I think that's 8b, like I am, and it's rare that we have any problems.

I wonder if your camellia might be a 'Daikagura'. It has pink and white variegated flowers that are peony-like. It usually blooms early for a japonica, and I remember you said you first saw flowers in the autumn. I'm attaching a link to a photo, but the flowers can vary somewhat with both color and shape...

Here is a link that might be useful: photo of 'Daikagura'

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 7:54PM
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