Growing camellias indoors requires careful attention to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible. In my experience, whilst it’s fine to start off seeds and young plants under controlled conditions indoors, they’ll need to be taken outside to truly thrive in spring. Here are my essential tips for growing camellias indoors.
Can Camellia Plants Grow Indoors?
Camellia plants should not be grown permanently indoors. These evergreen shrubs aren’t well-suited to the conditions in our homes. Indoor conditions are too warm and too dry for camellia plants.
They grow best in USDA Zones 7 to 10 but can be grown in pots in colder areas. Camellias need moist, well-draining soils that are slightly acidic. In addition, they also need partial shade and sheltered locations away from cold winds.
Although indoor conditions would provide shelter and partial shade, camellias don’t grow well in our homes. The only reason to grow these plants indoors is to keep them inside during extremely cold winters.
How Does Growing Camellias Indoors Affect Their Flowering Cycle?
Growing camellias indoors can disrupt their flowering cycle. Some camellia species flower in the fall, while others bloom in spring. However, all varieties produce next year’s flower buds on new growth.
Once the camellia flowering season finishes, these shrubs start working on next year’s buds. To do this effectively, they need cooler temperatures. Like many other plants, they benefit from a cold period to produce new flowers.
Growing camellias indoors deprives them of this cooler period. Instead, our homes usually provide consistently warm temperatures throughout the year. As such, indoor camellias may struggle to produce any flowers. Even if they do, the blooms won’t be very large.
Overwintering Camellia Plants Indoors
While camellias shouldn’t be grown indoors permanently, bringing them inside temporarily is sometimes necessary. Although camellia shrubs can handle cold temperatures, they struggle in freezing winds, especially in winter.
Growing these shrubs in containers makes protecting them more manageable during the winter. In most climates, wrapping the pot in a layer of fleece should be sufficient. However, bringing your potted camellias inside is vital in icy areas.
Even if you bring your plants indoors, you must keep it reasonably cool. Store your camellia in a bright spot that stays cool. Aim for temperatures lower than 60ºF (15.5ºC). Gradually readjust your plant to outdoor conditions in the spring before leaving it outside permanently.
Can You Grow Camellias as Houseplants?
Camellias aren’t particularly suited to growing as houseplants. These evergreen shrubs need outdoor conditions to truly thrive. Indoor conditions inside our homes are often too warm and dry for these plants.
How to Grow Camellias Outside
In my experience, the best spot to grow camellias outdoors is in a sheltered spot that receives partial shade. Some camellia varieties can tolerate more sunlight. You can plant either directly in the ground or in pots.
Camellia shrubs need fertile, slightly acidic soils that are well-draining but still hold some moisture. The soil pH should stay between 5.5 and 6.5. I like to add ericaceous compost to the soil or container, which provides the right acidity and plenty of nutrients.
I find that these plants do best in moist but not waterlogged soil. Water your camellia when the top 2 to 4 inches of soil feel dry. Young camellia plants need regular watering until they become established.
These low-maintenance shrubs don’t need much fertilizer. Once flowering finishes, feed your plant with diluted fertilizer to help fuel the growth of next season’s flowers.
Camellias should only be pruned once a year, immediately after flowering finishes. Pruning too often removes developing flower buds.
Camellias shouldn’t be grown permanently indoors as they aren’t suited for indoor conditions. Our homes are usually too warm and dry for these plants to thrive. If necessary, move potted camellias indoors during cold winters.
Further reading: Everything you need to know about the camellia flowering season.