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are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

Posted by leahcate So. Ca. (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 8, 10 at 0:16

I get mixed messages on growing Camellias here( zone 23). I have the perfect spot for Japonicas: shady/partial sun, protected from winds on north side, regular water with good drainage. I would plant it properly, mulch it well, and feed with an acid fertilizer. There are beauties in Descanso Gardens. Is their zone so greatly preferable to mine? I'd not hesitate to plant raphiolepsis in this spot. Though I know the bloom would be scarce, I'd feel secure it would thrive. Am I wise or foolish to be so leery re.camellias? Are some cultivars truly more suited for this area than others? I bought a Debutante on a sentimental impulse, but it's still in the box.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

Camellias grow great anywhere in So. Cal.

Here are the "tricks":

1. Give them either dappled shade all day or morning sun-afternoon shade.

2. Give them perfect drainage (as you've already noted).

3. Plant them with their trunk "flares" (where the trunk meets the soil) oh-so-slightly above ground. More newly-planted camellias die from being planted too deep than from any other planting issues.

4. They don't need an "acid soil" but they definitely need an acid-creating fertilizer. Camellia/Azalea food is nice but I've found better results with Citrus Food (which has an acidifier along with all the micronutrients that camellias need but can't suck up out of our soils).

5. Give them regular waterings to get them started. They actually become quite drought-tolerant with age.

6. Mulch them but make absolutely positively sure that the mulch doesn't sit up against the trunk.

7. If you plant them under an eave of the house, watch for tip burn caused by an excess of boron in the soil (from our hard water). Ordinarily, this problem is minimized after winter rains but if the camellia is under an eave, the rain doesn't do the leaching job we want it to do.


RE: are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

Joe, great to learn! I will fearlessly
plant the Debutante in that nice fence
line area that has dappled sun or bright light
almost all day. I am now considering buying 2-3 more
5 footers for the needed privacy there.
They are available in nurseries in that size.
So are 'Texas' privet and 'Majestic Beauty'.
Those two will not bloom well, but that's
not my major consideration. A 'Clara' Raphiolepsis
does well nearby, blooming slightly, and believe
the privet will do okay as well.
I do love camellias, but privacy is A-1.
I should add, the planting area is on a short bank
where there will be old plumbago roots to contend with.
What would you do, please. Thanks so much!

RE: are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

if you're looking for plants that will provide you with screening at a fairly fast pace and that will grow in semi-shade on a slope, here's some good candidate:

Acca sellowiana PINEAPPLE GUAVA
Cocculus laurifolius SNAILSEED
Podocarpus nagi NAGI
Griselinia littoralis BROADLEAF
Ilex x altaclarensis WILSON HOLLY
Pittosporum eugenioides TARATA
Xylosma congestum SHINEY XYLOSMA

Don't worry about the plumbago roots (assuming the plumbago itself is dead)

By the way, nurseries don't sell plants "by the foot". When you say "5-footers", do you mean plants in 5-gallon cans?


RE: are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

Joe, thank you so much for continued help! Perhaps I look for trouble. No, not "perhaps", I DO look, as I fear making a big mistake here. Of all your suggestions,(some just would not suit for various reasons), my A-One choice would be the Photinia. However! Most folks over in Shrubs seem to despise it and call it a bug or disease magnet, which I presumed would only be worse if not in full sun, which I thought it required?
***I Like Xylosma but thought it was slow to moderate.
Maybe not when staked to grow upward and not allowed to sprawl?
As for the "5 footer": As in size I'd like. I know 15 gal. does not always mean the plant will be 5 feet.
So, how about that Photinia? Full sun needed? Is it disease prone? Thanks again!

RE: are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

  • Posted by socal23 USDA10/Sunset23 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 11, 10 at 15:12

Photinia is very susceptible to Entomosporium Leaf Spot in areas with frequent summer stratus (coast or coastal valleys) or in shady areas with poor air circulation. It's a beautiful plant if properly trained and allowed to flower. As a tightly pruned hedge it's rather uninspired but safe (outside of E. maculatum it's pretty bulletproof - tolerates too little or too much water, and will survive and look okay even when planted in full sun and then allowed to be overshadowed by trees).


RE: are camellias tricky in so. ca.?

Ryan, I got a little confused here:
"As a tightly pruned hedge it's rather uninspired but safe (outside of E. maculatum it's pretty bulletproof - tolerates too little or too much water, and will survive and look okay even when planted in full sun and then allowed to be overshadowed by trees)."
It won't be pruned as a hedge...maybe just
thinned a bit every year.
e. maculatum...what is this? Joe Pye weed? do you mean Photinia is almost as tough as e. maculatum?
It would be planted as an understory to trees and receive only dappled sun and some bright light. Pretty good air circulation, though. Oh, and as for "uninspired"....I agree, but that's what ya get in nurseries: same old/same old. :>( My other idea is about boring.

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