Camellia Japonica, a beautiful flowering shrub and an ornamental houseplant, is used as a landscaping plant in my parts of the world. Camellias are queens of winters. It belongs to the plant family Theaceae. Camellia Japonica is also known as Japanese Camellia, Common Camellia, Rose of Winter, Snow Camellia. In the US, it is commonly called Japonica. It comes in various varieties. Camellia Japonica is a wild shrub native to mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea and southern Japan.
Camellia Japonica in Japanese is called Yuki-Subaki. It prefers to grow at altitudes between 300 to 1200 meters.
Japanese Camellia flowers come in various colors like white, pink, lavender, red & yellow.
These shrubs are grown mainly for their beautiful, showy, fragrant flowers and are used as hedge decorations for the same reason. They are used to form wall fences, wall borders, patios, etc. The foliage is evergreen and looks splendid when the plant is in its blooming stage.
They can be grown in pots / containers and gardens.
These shrubs are the love of many gardeners in Japan, Korea, China, and other east Asian countries owing to their stunning shape, colors, and size.
How to Grow Camellia Japonica Plant?
Camellias are normally considered hard to grow plants. But they are not given the right environment and care.
Camellias are usually slow growers.
These plants are purple in color when young & turn greyish brown when mature. The leaves are darker on the upper side and lighter on the lower side. The leaves are glossy in texture.
The growing season for this plant is the start of spring. This is when the plant starts developing and growing its roots. The budding and blooming occur in fall and winter.
This plant is a good candidate for making a bonsai.
Camellia Japonica Varieties
There are over 250 species of Camellias existing in nature and over 2000 cultivars developed around the world.
The main varieties used for landscaping are Camellia Japonica & Camellia Sasanqua and many hybrids of these 2 varieties.
The leaves of Camellia Japonica are normally larger than Camellia Sasanqua.
They do well in partial sun or even shade conditions. However, they love partial shade conditions and thrive really well in such environments.
Do not expose them to direct intense afternoon sun. Mature Camellias can tolerate full sun to a certain extent as the canopy developed over the plant saves the roots from drying out. 2-4 hours of sun is enough for this shrub.
The morning sun can interact with the dew lying on the flower petals and can damage the flowers. Hence you should save the plant from the direct morning sun.
Between Camellia Japonica & Camellia Sasanqua, the latter is more tolerant to direct sun but is less cold hardy.
Optimal Temperature to Grow Camellia Japonica Plant
These plants do well in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 10. But all the Japanese Camellias are not cold or frost tolerant.
Save the plant from cold windy places which can damage the flowers and the buds.
They can tolerate up to 10 degrees F (-12 degrees C) temperatures on the lower side. Temperatures lower than that are a problem for this plant. On the other hand, temperatures above 64 degrees F (18 degrees C) can damage the plant.
Camellias do not like hot dry air. They love humid climates.
How tall do Japanese Camellias grow?
These shrubs can grow up to 6 m (19.7 ft) high. But some varieties can go to a height of 11 m (36 ft)
They can grow 6 to 10 ft wide.
Soil Type/ Potting Mix
Camellias like organic, slightly acidic or neutral, and well-drained soil. Waterlogging in the soil can cause root rot. Hence ensure you provide properly sized drainage holes at the bottom of the pot/ container in which you plan to plant Japanese Camellia.
The soil needs to be kept moist all the time.
Maintain the pH of soil between 5.5 to 6.5 for optimal growth.
Life-span of Japanese Camellia
In Japan, some Camellia Japonicas are believed to age more than 500 years. Camellias are long-living plants.
Camellia Japonica is an evergreen shrub bearing leathering green leaves.
Propagation of Camellia Japonica
You should transplant Camellias either in spring or in fall. However, the spring season is preferable.
Propagation can be done by semi-ripe cuttings, layering, grafting, or hardwood cuttings.
Semi ripe cuttings are easy to root and develop roots easily. Take the cutting and plant them after dipping the cut end into a rooting hormone.
Hardwood cuttings should be taken during the blooming season between fall and late winters. They may take up to 3 months to develop roots.
They can be propagated by sowing the seeds. Soak the seeds in warm water for a day before planting them. Seeds usually take 1 to 3 months to germinate.
The best method to propagate is by stem cuttings.
Flowering in Camellia
Camellia Japonica’s bloom time is between January & March. The flowers start to develop at the end of the branch with a very small stem. Flowers develop either as a single unit or in pairs.
Camellias develop seeds (or fruits) between September & October. The seeds are formed inside the globe-shaped fruits having 3 compartments each. Each part of the globe-shaped fruit contains 1 or 2 seeds.
The flowers are pollinated by birds or insects.
Flowers occur in various shades of white, pink, red, and even multi-shaded.
The flowers have many shapes and sizes. They can be single flowers, semi-doubles, irregular semi-doubles, formal double. Informal double and many more.
The size can range from miniature flowers to as big as 5.5 inches in diameter.
The flowers have a life of 3 to 4 weeks.
The buds of Japanese Camellia start to develop in the mid-summer to fall season. Buds form in clusters. They bloom from late winters to the early spring season.
Why is My Camellia Losing Buds & Flowers? No Flowers at All?
- Excessive watering can cause the developing buds to fall off pre-maturely.
- Reposition the plant so that rainfall can penetrate the plant container.
- Do not over-fertilize the plant. Fertilize only during the growing season (early spring to summers)
- Excessive low temperatures can lead to bud fall. You can move the plant indoor and use grow lights instead.
- Save the plant from harsh winter winds
Irrigating / Watering Camellia japonica
Camellias are low-maintenance plants with an average requirement of water for survival. However, they cannot tolerate drought conditions for a very long time. You need to water them thoroughly and regularly.
Fertilizing Japanese Camellia
You should be very careful while applying fertilizers to Camellia Japonica. If applied in excess, it may lead to falling off of the newly formed buds.
For fertilizing Camellias, apply natural organic manure cow dung, leaves compost, vermicompost, etc.
You can apply some bone meal or blood meal before the start of spring (growing season) for optimum growth.
Do not fertilize during the budding and blooming period as the buds may fall off due to the fertilizer application.
Pruning & Repotting
Camellias normally do not require pruning as they grow in good shape and form naturally.
But if they grow out of size, you can prune them to shape after the blooming season (later winters or early spring).
Pruning late in the growing season can lead to the loss of flower buds in the upcoming blooming season.
Camellia Reticulata varieties do not like pruning and you need to be really careful about which variety of Camellias are you growing in your home garden.
Repotting can be done if you think your plant has outgrown the pot and has become root-bound ( roots are growing in circles inside the pot or coming out of the drainage hole)
Toxicity / Medicinal Uses of Common Camellia
- The leaves of Japanese Camellia plant are said to be rich source of anti-inflammatory components.
- They are believed to possess anti-cancer properties.
- Seeds of this plant are used to extract edible oil.
- Leaves of Camellia Japonica are used as a substitute of tea.
- There are no known toxic affects of this plant.
Diseases & Pests
Caterpillars love to eat the leaves of this beautiful shrub. Camellia Japonica is susceptible to a few fungal and algae diseases like:
- Spot disease – Leaves develop silver colour and round shaped spots
- Black mold
- Leaf spot
- Leaf Gall
- Flower blight
- Root rot
- Canker (fungal infection)
Mealybugs and viruses can also attack this shrub although there is not much data available on viral infections of this Camellia Japonica plant.
These are particularly vulnerable to root rot fungus and petal blight.
Root rot fungus normally attacks the plant where the climate is relatively warm. If your plant is affected, apply a copper-based fungicide.
Petal blight kills the flowers. It appears in the form of spots on the flowers. If you think your plant is affected by this infection, remove and burn the infected flower from the plant.
They may occasionally be infected by insects, aphids, or mites. You can rub the infected part with alcohol or spray neem oil to get rid of these attackers.
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