Camellia japonica, also known as the Japanese camellia, is a striking ornamental shrub known for its large, beautiful flowers. As such, Camellia japonica is one of the most popular types of camellia. In this article, I’ll run through the fundamentals of Camellia japonica plant care and essentials growing tips in your garden.
About Camellia Japonica
Camellia japonica is an evergreen shrub from the tea family (Theaceae). Camellia japonica is native to parts of Asia such as Japan, China, South Korea, and Taiwan and grows best in USDA Zones 6 to 10.
This bushy shrub has glossy, dark green elliptical leaves that can have serrated edges. Camellia japonica blooms from January to March, producing stunning pink, red, yellow, and white flowers with overlapping petals.
These camellias can reach up to 10 feet or more in height once fully mature.
What’s the Difference Between Camellia Japonica and Other Types of Camellia?
The main difference between Camellia japonica and other types of camellias is the timing of the blooming season. Camellia japonica is a spring-blooming camellia that flowers from January until March. Other popular types, like Camellia sasanqua and Camellia sinensis both bloom from fall until early winter.
Popular Types of Camellia Japonica
Camellia japonica is probably the most common camellia grown in gardens. As such, there are thousands of Camellia japonica cultivars on the market. Here are some of the most popular cultivars:
Camellia japonica ‘Ave Maria’ – This elegant camellia is an award-winning cultivar with gorgeous light pink flowers. ‘Ave Maria’ enjoys a long flowering season from October until March.
Camellia japonica ‘Desire’ – This beautiful Camellia japonica cultivar has stunning pink double flowers. ‘Desire’ blooms for several months during the spring.
Camellia japonica ‘Grand Slam’ – This vibrant camellia has bright red double or semi-double blooms with overlapping petals and yellow centers. This is a midseason camellia that flowers from late winter until early spring.
Growing & Caring for Camellia Japonica
Growing from Seed or Planting a Mature Plant
While it’s easier to buy a mature plant, Camellia japonica plants can also be grown from seed. In the fall, soak your camellia seeds for 12 hours before sowing them into small pots of well-draining seed compost. Keep the soil moist and place the pots in bright light until germination occurs. Once your seedlings are approximately four inches tall, transplant them outside.
For more, see our in-depth guide on how long camellia plants take to grow.
Where and How to Plant
Plant your Camellia japonica during the fall to help it establish a sound root system before winter arrives. Dig a hole large enough for the root ball of your camellia. Gently place the camellia in the hole and fill in around it with soil before firming the soil down with your fingers. Water your camellia thoroughly.
Camellia japonica shrubs grow best in partial shade. However, they may tolerate some full sun or full shade for short periods. Place your Camellia japonica in an east or southeast-facing location that provides a few hours of direct morning sunlight. These locations provide shade during the afternoon.
Temperature & Humidity
Camellia japonica plants prefer relatively warm temperatures and moderate humidity in Zones 6 to 10. Although Camellia japonica shrubs can tolerate temperatures as low as 10ºF (-12ºC), they must be protected from cold winds. Try to provide temperatures between 60 and 90ºF and humidity levels between 50 and 60%.
Camellia japonica shrubs need fertile, well-draining, acidic soils. The soil pH should be between 5.0 and 6.5. This may require you to amend your existing soil using ericaceous compost. Clay, loam, and peat-based soils are ideal for Camellia japonica shrubs.
Camellia japonica shrubs like fairly moist soil but hate being waterlogged. Water young or newly-planted Camellia japonica shrubs whenever the top two to four inches of soil feel dry. Established Camellia japonica plants shouldn’t need extra water except during dry, hot summers.
Although Camellia japonica shrubs need lots of nutrients, they only need fertilizing once or twice yearly. Fertilize your Camellia japonica with ericaceous fertilizer once it finishes flowering in the spring. You can also apply a second dose of fertilizer in midsummer.
Pruning & Deadheading
Deadhead your Camellia japonica throughout the blooming season to encourage more flowers. As a slow-growing shrub, Camellia japonica shouldn’t require much pruning. If you need to reduce its size, prune your established shrub after flowering has finished.
Over Winter Care
Camellia japonica shrubs should survive winter temperatures as low as 10ºF in Zones 6 to 10. However, applying a thick layer of mulch and wrapping the plant or its pot in fleece is a good idea. In colder areas, grow Camellia japonica plants in pots and bring them indoors during the winter.
Common Pests & Diseases
Common Camellia japonica pests include aphids, scale insects, and spider mites. Camellia japonica diseases include camellia dieback and yellow mottle virus. Eliminate pests using horticultural oils or insecticidal soap. Keep your Camellia japonica in good condition to reduce the risk of disease.
Camellia Japonica Plant Care FAQs:
Where is the Best Place to Plant a Camellia Japonica?
Plant your Camellia japonica in a sheltered location that provides partial shade. East or southeast-facing areas are ideal. Plant Camellia japonica shrubs in rich, well-draining, acidic soils.
Do Camellias Grow Well in Pots?
Camellia japonica shrubs grow well in pots, especially in colder areas. Fill the pot with ericaceous compost and provide good drainage. Water whenever the top four inches of soil feel dry.
How Do You Take Care of Camellias During the Winter?
Protect Camellia japonica shrubs during the winter by applying a thick layer of mulch and wrapping them in fleece. In areas colder than Zone 6, grow these shrubs in pots and bring them indoors during the winter.
Camellia Japonica Plant Care – Wrapping Up
Camellia japonica shrubs are gorgeous ornamental plants known for their exquisite flowers. They grow best in Zones 6 to 10 and require fertile, well-draining, acidic soils. Camellia japonica shrubs thrive in partial shade but need protection from cold winds.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the best companion plants for camellias, tips on dealing with camellia buds not opening, growing Camellia flowers in California, flowers that pair well with camellias in floral bouquets, and how to dry and preserve camellia flowers.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.