Camellia japonica, also known as the Japanese camellia, is a striking ornamental shrub known for its large, beautiful flowers. In my experience, these plants need rich, fertile soils, plenty of sunlight, and warm temperatures to grow their best. In this guide, I’ll share my essential Camellia Japonica plant care tips, including the best planting locations, soil types, light exposures, watering frequencies, and fertilizing needs for optimal growth and maximum blooms each season.
- Growing from Seed or Planting a Mature Plant
- Where and How to Plant
- Sunlight Requirements
- Temperature & Humidity
- Soil Requirements
- Pruning & Deadheading
- Over Winter Care
- Common Pests & Diseases
- Differences Between Camellia Japonica and Other Types of Camellia
- Popular Types of Camellia Japonica
Growing from Seed or Planting a Mature Plant
While it’s easier to buy a mature plant, in my experience, 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
Camellia japonica shrubs grow best in USDA Zones 6 to 10. I plant my Camellia japonica in rich, well-draining soils that are slightly acidic. I find that these shrubs also grow well in containers.
In terms of timings, I look to plant Camellia japonica during the fall to help it establish a sound root system before winter arrives.
I dig a hole large enough for the root ball of my camellia. I then gently place the plant in the hole and fill in around it with soil before firming the soil down with my fingers. I then water the plant thoroughly.
I find that camellia japonica shrubs grow best in partial shade. They may tolerate full sun or full shade for short periods.
In my experience, the best location is an east or southeast-facing garden spot 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. I find that they thrive happily in temperatures between 60 and 90ºF and humidity levels between 50 and 60%.
My camellia japonica shrubs do best in 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. I find that clay, loam, and peat-based soils are ideal for Camellia japonica shrubs.
My Camellia japonica shrubs like moderately moist soil but hate being waterlogged. I water young or newly planted 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, I find that they only need fertilizing once or twice yearly. I fertilize my plants with ericaceous fertilizer once it finishes flowering in the spring. You can also apply a second dose of fertilizer in midsummer.
Pruning & Deadheading
I deadhead my plants throughout the blooming season to encourage more flowers. As a slow-growing shrub, I find that they don’t generally require much pruning. If you need to reduce its size, prune your established shrub after flowering has finished.
Over Winter Care
These shrubs should survive winter temperatures as low as 10ºF in Zones 6 to 10. However, I like to apply a thick layer of mulch and wrap the plant or its pot in fleece. In colder areas, I’d recommend growing Camellia japonica plants in pots and bringing them indoors during the winter.
Common Pests & Diseases
In my experience, common Camellia japonica pests include aphids, scale insects, and spider mites. Common diseases include camellia dieback and yellow mottle virus. I find the best way to eliminate pests is by using horticultural oils or insecticidal soap. Keeping your plants in good condition to reduce the risk of disease is also prudent throughout the year.
Differences Between Camellia Japonica and Other Types of Camellia
The main difference between Camellia japonica and other camellia types is the blooming season’s timing. Camellia japonica is a spring-blooming camellia that flowers from January until March. Other popular types, like Camellia sasanqua and Camellia sinensis, 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.
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.
Further reading: Discover the best companion plants for camellias.