Camellia Care in Winter: How to Protect Your Plants from Frost and Cold Temperatures

Camellia flowers add some welcome color and structure to the garden during the winter months. These evergreen shrubs thrive in Zones 7 to 10 but can grow in colder climates with some protection. In this article, we’ll cover essential camellia plant care in winter and cold temperature snaps. 

Camellia Care in Winter: How to Protect Your Plants from Frost and Cold Temperatures

What Conditions Do Camellias Need?

A close shot of soft full camellia flower in bloom

Camellia shrubs are native to eastern and southern areas of Asia, including China, Japan, and Korea. Camellias mainly grow in woodlands, although some species grow on the slopes of the Himalayas. Although camellias thrive in tropical or subtropical conditions, they can tolerate cold temperatures.

Most types of camellias grow best in USDA Zones 7 to 10, although some varieties can grow in colder areas. Most camellias prefer partial or full shade, although Camellia sasanqua varieties can grow in full sun. However, camellias do need sheltered areas that protect them from cold or strong winds that can damage their flower buds.

Do Camellias Need Winter Protection?

A camellia bush with purple flowers is dusted in a light covering of snow

Generally, most camellias can handle winter temperatures as low as 10ºF (-12ºC). Some cold-hardy cultivars can handle temperatures down to 5ºF (-15ºC). However, camellias require winter protection if temperatures drop below freezing.

Camellias also need protection from strong, cold winds. These conditions damage camellia flower buds and severely dry these shrubs out. If they suffer from too much cold damage, camellias will drop their flower buds.

Camellias can handle cold temperatures for a few days. However, they may get damaged if exposed to sub-zero conditions for extended periods. They also need protection from frost.

Camellia Care in Winter When Growing Outdoors

A person carries two handfuls of mulch to lay around the base of camellia plants

With just a few simple steps, you can protect camellias growing outdoors from the worst of the winter weather. You can protect your camellias during the winter with some preparation during the fall.

Watering camellias thoroughly before the first fall frost arrives helps prepare them for the winter. A deep watering helps insulate the shrub’s roots, keeping them warm. This also means that you only need to water your camellia in periods of dry winter weather.

Spreading a thick layer of mulch around the base of your camellia also helps protect it during the winter. Mulch serves two functions; it helps conserve moisture while insulating the plant. Apply a layer of mulch that’s approximately 2 to 4 inches thick and covers the width of the shrub’s canopy.

Some of the best mulches for camellias include bark chippings, cypress mulch, and pine needles or pine straw. Always use organic matter for your mulch, whether that’s extra compost or various types of shredded bark or leaves.

Don’t fertilize your camellia shrubs during the winter, as over-fertilizing usually does more harm than good. If camellias get too much fertilizer, they can drop their flower buds, ruining your display. Only fertilize camellias once or twice a year straight after flowering and around midsummer.

If you’re expecting extreme cold for prolonged periods, you can wrap the trunk of your camellia in horticultural fleece. You can also cover the entire plant using a canopy. Keep the canopy well-anchored, allowing plenty of space underneath for good air circulation.

Essential Winter Protection for Camellias Growing in Pots

A single red camellia plant in bloom covered by light snowfall

Camellias also grow well in pots, making protecting them easier during the winter. Add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant’s trunk for mild winters. In colder climates, you can also wrap the pot with several layers of horticultural fleece.

One of the best things about growing camellia shrubs in pots is that you can bring them indoors during harsh winters. A greenhouse or garage is ideal. However, camellias don’t like dry conditions, so you may need to provide extra humidity if you bring them indoors.

Camellia Winter Protection FAQs

Do I Need to Cover Camellias in Winter?

You only need to cover camellias in winter if you expect temperatures below freezing. You can either wrap the plants in horticultural fleece or cover them completely.

Can Camellias Cope with Frost?

Camellias don’t cope well with frosts, so protect them as much as possible. Camellias that thaw out too quickly after a hard frost can be severely damaged.

When Should I Prune My Camellia for Winter?

Only prune camellias once a year in late spring. If you prune later in the year, you’ll end up removing the developing flower buds.

Camellia Care in Winter: Wrapping Up

Most camellias can tolerate temperatures as low as 5 to 10ºF in most areas. However, camellias need protection from frosts and temperatures below freezing. Protect outdoor camellias using mulch or horticultural fleece, and bring potted camellias indoors.

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