pruning camellias

jwb55July 11, 2005

I just retired and have decided to try my hand at gardening. The home we bought has 3 large camellia bushes (about 15-20 ft) and my husband decided to "trim" them up off the ground. Well he trimmed them up about 4 ft. off the ground, cutting off all the limbs. NOT what I wanted. Will they fill in again or am I stuck with them this way? Wanda

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forrestal(Gulf Coast z8b)

Just a few rambling thoughts on the subject... I don't know if this is exactly what you want to hear, but here goes: camellias grow as if they were trees (which they are) and thus most of the new growth is toward the ends of the limbs. Sometimes, where a hard pruning is made, one will see some new growth sprout from the lower and interior trunk areas, but not very much -- it won't ever "fill in" down low, like the bushy shrub you had before. The top, however, will look great.

But don't despair, one of the neat things about camellias is that, if you really want that full-length shrubby look, it can be pruned all the way back to a stump and it will bush back out (although you may lose a couple years' blooms).

Why not give this "new look" a year or two -- first for your husband's ego, and second to see how you like it. You may be surprised. I have some old ones we pruned into "tree form" and we love them -- they get many compliments because most people never see them pruned that way. Very handsome and distinctive.

Limbing up a camellia (as your husband did) is an instant "makeover" technique for a leggy or unthrifty camellia. And as I say, if you still hate it, whack it back next winter to a stump of about 18 inches and let it grow back out as a shrub. They can take it.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 10:27PM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

To add to the excellent advice above;

My two nieghbors and I have camellias and sasanquas that are over 50 years old. At one house almost all of hers are trimmed to a tree form - they are spectacular in winter and spring. The other has the shrub form - the usual stuff - they both have several beautiful varieties.
I had to remove all but one of the original shrubs, it was over 15 feet tall. I cut it to one third of its hieght. The first year it was horrendous but now, entering it's third season as a much smaller shrub it is very attractive. Unfortuneatly it is a common variety, very pretty nontheless.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2005 at 10:00PM
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varmi(WA Aust)

Gurley, do you know the names of these old camellias?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 10:04PM
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I am a new member and I was wondering if anyone can offer some suggestions for an attractive shape for a sassanqua camellia that we have on one of the front corners of our house. This shrub is fairly young and is about 5 feet tall. Currently, it is roughly oval in shape. I was thinking about trimming it into a tree shape, but am unsure if this would be appropriate for this location in my landscape. If I choose a tree shape, what shape would you suggest for the top? No matter what shape I choose, should I start the process now or wait for it to grow taller? How many of the lower branches should I remove initially? Should I just remove a few branches now and then remove more as the camellia grows taller or should I trim off the lower branches to a certain height right away? Thanks to anyone who can offer assistance.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 9:13PM
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Having just recently bought a home in central N.C. I have 2 camillia bushes or trees on my property. How do I identify the species of camillia?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 1:51PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

randie - what would help you with an ID would be for you to determine what time of year that they bloom (winter? spring? fall?), which could narrow it down to the most common two species. Then check what the flowers look like (singles, doubles, etc), and finally what the leaves look like (some have larger leaves than others).

In general, the C. japonicas are winter/spring bloomers and the C. sasanquas are fall bloomers. There has also been alot of hybridization of camellias over the years so yours could also be some other species hybrid too, depending on when it blooms and other characteristics (eg., other species include C. oleifera, C. sinensis, etc).

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 9:26AM
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Good morning,
This spring I moved into an upstate SC home with three Camellia bushes. They were nicely shaped, about 6 feet high, on either side of my walkway. As the spring and summer went on, they made it more and more difficult to walk thru the entry, but as they seemed covered with buds, I didn't want to prune them. They bloomed spectacularly this fall, but seem about finished. I was going to attempt to get them back under control, but see they still have some buds. These are much smaller than the others were, so now I'm worried that if I cut them, I'll be eliminating future flowers. What do I do? These are white, I have another red plant, much smaller, and just at it's peak, I think, a bit later than the white. I have no idea what variety they are, former homeowner was clueless. Is there a website or book which can give me more direction> I'd hate to hurt them :(.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 11:46AM
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Catmad, others here know much more than I, but I have a camellia like yours which tries to branch out over the walk. A couple times during the year (especially when it's getting new growth) I take the clippers and just clip off any growth that looks like it is going to branch out over the walk. I don't do it like trimming a hedge, I clip selected growth back to a growth point so the bush still looks good.

The bush is tall and slim, but very bushy and it's not blocking the walk.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 3:10PM
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I hope someone can help on this... about 6 weeks ago, one of our 10-15' tall camellias toppled over and we had it moved, but the leaves are now all "crispy" and brown and there is no visible growth from the stems.

The stems, though, are still green inside.

New growth has sprouted from the ground.

I've been advised to:

1. do nothing, and give the camellia a year to see if the limbs eventually do start producing new growth

2. prune the shrub to the ground to give the new "ground growth" a better chance

3. prune some of the branches, but try to retain the original shape.

Which of these is the best approach?

We live in NC, and the camellia used to bloom during the winter and often again in early spring.

Thanks much for any advice!


    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 5:06AM
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I have 3 camelia bushes/shrubs/trees each about 10 ft. tall. The one in the center is in the corner of our house & getting squeezed out by the other 2 in their competition for air/light/nutrition. I would like to move the center one & therefore give each more space. Obviously, they were planted too closely together in the first place. Will the transplant work? When should it be done? These are all winter/spring bloomers.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 1:15PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Merv, the best way to insure that your questions get answered is to post a brand new question under your own heading. The original question in this thread is dated july, 05. Few of us follow up on such old threads.

I'm afraid that I would simply cut down and eliminate the center camellia, rather than risking damaging all of them by an invasive transplanting process.

In your new thread, be sure to tell us how far the trunks are from each other. You might title this thread "Transplanting mature Camellias".

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:45AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Also, include a picture(s) if you can.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 1:36PM
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I can use some help here as well. We recently moved to a house with some overgrown camellias. Three of them are right next to the house and are beautiful trees. However, they are growing into the side of the house. I'd like to keep them but they would need a drastic pruning. I've been reading that I can basically cut them down to a trunk. Is this really the case? Will this shock the plant into sending up some new shoots from the root system? My husband is all for cutting them out completely but I'd hate to do that. If I could make them into shrubs again I think I could save them. Can you give me some specific directions for the prune and when to do it? We live in the mt. area of GA and they have just started to bloom in October. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 5:23PM
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chrisef,I hesitate to give instructions because I live in North Florida and you in North Ga. and I fear I don't know enough about your local climate, but here I would cut the camellia back as soon as it finished flowering. Dig your new hole first making sure you give it adequate space from buildings light wires overhead and other shrubs,walksways etc. Then dig plant with as many roots as possible, replant, water, mulch, and hope for the best and remember to water regularly even in winter so the roots to not get dry, Hope this is helpful.
James in Florida

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 2:37PM
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