Growing Camellias Indoors

Botanical Name: Camellia japonica 

You'll be successful growing camellias indoors if you keep a few things in mind. Put them in a cool location where they'll get indirect sun. Keep the soil moist. Oh, one other thing...they need high humidity. This may be easy to accomplish, depending on the climate where you live. Camellias don't like the hot, dry air of heated homes in the winter.

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Japanese camellia shrubs have woody branches covered with thick, glossy dark-green leaves.

You'll find them in bloom in the winter or early spring. Their big, showy camellia flowers are available in single, semi-double (shown at left) and double-flowered varieties. The flowers are 3-6 inch (7.5-15 cm) wide. You'll typically find them in pink, red or white -- sometimes speckled or striped.

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More than 2,000 hybrids are available in single, semi-double or double blooms. 'Alba Plena' is an early-flowering cultivar and one of the most popular with snowy white blooms. 'Elegans' has big pink flowers often flecked with white. 'Chandlers Elegance' has lovely patterns in pink and white.

Care Tips for Growing Camellias

Coax more blooms. Growing camellias outdoors for the summer will coax new flower buds to form. Keep them shaded from direct sun. Camellias are tender perennials so be sure to bring them back indoors before the first frost.

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Prune in spring. Pruning camellias will keep them a manageable size indoors and encourage branching. Prune the stems back hard in spring, after flowering. Buds form on the tips of new branches, so you'll get more blooms this way. Cut stems at a 45° angle, just above a node (the place where a leaf or branch is attached to the stem). Use sharp pruners to avoid tearing the stems.

Repot in spring, after flowering. Move up to a container 1 size larger every 2-3 years, or when needed. If your camellia plant is already big, you can top-dress instead by removing the top 2-3 (5-7.5 cm) inches of soil and replace it with fresh, lime-free soil.

Camellia diseases include black spot -- a fungus that should be treated with a fungicide specially made for blackspot. Giving plants good air circulation helps to prevent any fungal disease. Common pests are aphids and scale insects. These are more common when growing camellias outdoors. 

Camellia Growing Tips

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Origin: Japan, China, Korea

Height: Up to 10 ft (3 m) indoors. Prune to keep the shrub small. Camellia can be grown as a bonsai.

Light: Bright indirect light. Some cool, direct morning sunlight is fine.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist, especially when plant is budding and flowering. Soil that's too wet or too dry will cause buds to drop off. After flowering, allow top of soil to dry out between waterings.

Humidity: High humidity. Mist foliage regularly and stand camellia plant on a tray of wet pebbles. Use a room humidifier in winter, if needed.

Temperature: Cool 45-60°F/7-16°C . Make your flowers last longer by keeping the plant in a slightly cooler location. Blooms will last for weeks if kept at a maximum of 60°F/16°C.

Soil: Likes acidic medium. Use a lime-free peat moss-based mix.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks, beginning with the first show of flower buds till the end of flowering. Use a high-potassium fertilizer that contains iron, diluted by half. 

Propagation: Take stem tip cuttings in winter and root in moist potting mix.

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