Whether you’ve planted a Japanese camellia, a Sasanqua camellia, or another type of camellia, you’re probably looking forward to catching sight of the delicate flowers. But what if your plants won’t bloom? Keep reading to learn common reasons why camellia plants don’t flower.
The Plant Is Too Young
As they say, patience is a virtue.
We agree that it would be great if camellia plants began to flower as soon as you plant them. But the truth is that these plants need time to mature before they can produce their sought-after flowers.
While you can grow camellia from seed, many gardeners purchase camellia plants, plant them outdoors, and assume they’ll flower the same year. However, the age of store-bought camellia plants can vary widely.
Some types of camellia can bloom in the first few years of growth but others will not flower until year five.
For more, see our in-depth guide on how long camellias typically take to grow.
You may know that camellia plants, like all plants, require various nutrients to thrive. However, you may not know that the ratio of these nutrients can significantly impact plant health!
To understand how fertilization impacts flowering, let’s take a look at the three macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
Nitrogen is the building block of many plant proteins, including enzymes. This element is also an essential component of chlorophyll—the molecule plants use to complete photosynthesis.
In general, nitrogen supports vegetative growth. That’s why it’s an essential nutrient for seedlings and leafy greens.
Phosphorus plays an essential role in energy transfer within plants. If plants don’t have enough phosphorus, they can’t make the energy transfer molecule ATP.
Plants also rely on phosphorus to develop RNA and DNA, stem strength, flower production, and disease resistance.
The final plant macronutrient, potassium, is not used to create molecules within plants. Instead, it’s used as a messenger to regulate processes, including the opening and closing stomata (plant pores) and water update.
Since each nutrient plays a unique role in plant health and function, you’ll need to apply a fertilizer that provides the proper ratio of these nutrients.
Flowering plants like camellias are most likely to thrive if you apply a fertilizer that is designed to support flowering. These products typically have higher amounts of phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen.
Some fertilizers that can work well for camellia plants include FoxFarm Tiger Bloom and Jobe’s Organics Rose & Flower Food (via Amazon). Apply this fertilizer twice a year: in mid-spring and mid-summer.
Here’s our in-depth guide on fertilizing camellia flowers.
Improper Soil pH
Even if you apply the proper nutrients, improper soil pH can prevent the plant from accessing them.
Camellia plants prefer a slightly acidic soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If the pH is too high, you can add sulfur to lower it.
Lack of Light
You may have heard that some camellia plants prefer dappled light or partial shade. And this is true! However, too little light can lead to a lack of plant vigor and flowers.
Producing flowers is an energy-intensive process. Therefore, plants cannot flower if they don’t receive enough solar energy.
In general, you should plant your camellia where it will receive at least six hours of bright light each day. Morning light is ideal because it is not as intense as afternoon light.
While camellia plants bloom in the late fall through early spring, the buds form during the summer. If the plants are stressed during this period, it’s likely that flower buds will not develop properly.
Summer droughts can stress camellia plants and prevent them from producing healthy flower buds, which means they will not produce flowers in the following months.
Although mature camellia plants can handle short periods of drought, the soil should be kept slightly moist. This is especially important if the weather is hot and/or the plants are exposed to harsh afternoon sun.
While camellia plants can tolerate frost, a harsh frost at the wrong time can damage developing flower buds.
Flowers are the most susceptible, just as the buds begin opening. If a harsh frost is predicted just as your plants are beginning to flower, you can attempt to protect them by covering them with a blanket or piece of frost cloth.
For more, see our in-depth guide to optimal hardiness zones for growing camellias.
Why Isn’t My Camellia Blooming FAQs:
When Do Camellia Plants Flower?
Camellia plants flower once a year, sometime during the late fall through early spring. The exact flowering period depends on the species as well as the variety.
Can Pruning Restrict Camellia Plants from Blooming?
Over-pruning or improper pruning can delay or prevent blooming. Ensure you’re pruning at the right time and in the right way.
Do Extreme Temperatures Impact Camellia Plants from Blooming?
Camellias can be sensitive to extreme heat or cold and may not bloom if exposed to excessive heat or freezing environmental conditions.
Do Pests Prevent Camellia Plants from Blooming?
Camellias can be susceptible to various pests and diseases that can affect their ability to bloom.
Camellias are stunning plants that can brighten up any garden, but they can be tricky to get to bloom. The most common reasons camellias won’t bloom are improper pruning, poor soil conditions, inadequate sunlight, and extreme weather conditions. By addressing these issues and following some basic care tips, you can encourage your camellias to bloom and thrive. With a little patience and attention, you can enjoy a stunning display of camellia flowers year after year.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.