Golden State Blooms: Can Camellias Thrive in California?

With ruffled flowers and beautiful green foliage, camellias are popular garden plants. So if you live in California, you may be wondering if you can grow these plants in The Golden State. Join us as we cover how to grow camellias in California. 

Can You Grow Camellias in California?

What Hardiness Zones Can Camellias Grow In?

Most types of camellias are hardy to USDA zones 7-10. That means they can survive winter temperatures as low as 0°F.

However, it’s important to note that not all camellia species and varieties have the same hardiness. While some can survive periods of 0°F, others can only survive as low as 20°F.

Additionally, some varieties can tolerate hot temperatures and sun better than others.

What Hardiness Zones Exist in California?

Wildflowers growing abundantly near the seas in California

Since California is such a large state with varied topography and elevation, you can find a variety of hardiness zones in the state.

Parts of southern, coastal California are part of hardiness zone 11, which means temperatures only fall to 40°F. However, high-elevation parts of California near Nevada are in zone 5, which means temperatures often drop to -20°F in the winter.

However, most of California falls somewhere between zones 5 and 11. In fact, most of the state is in either zone 8 or 9.

Can Camellias Grow in California?

Two salmon colored camellia flowers in bloom

When you put the above pieces of information together, you’ll learn that you can grow camellias in California. However, you can’t grow these plants in every spot in California!

Since camellias will struggle to grow in regions colder than Zone 7 and warmer than Zone 9, some parts of California aren’t the best places for camellias. However, these plants will be quite happy in much of the state.

Can I Grow Camellias in Los Angeles?

Most of Los Angeles falls within USDA hardiness zone 9 or 10. That means you can grow camellias here if you take precautions.

Since LA summers can get quite hot, you must plant your camellia in a spot that receives partial shade. It’s particularly important to protect the plants from the intense afternoon sun.

With that in mind, it’s best to plant your camellias under shade trees or on the eastern side of a building or wall. You should also ensure that you provide your camellias with plenty of water during hot summers.

While you can grow various camellias in Los Angeles, the heat and sun-tolerant Camellia sasanqua is one of the better choices for this area.

Can I Grow Camellias in San Francisco?

Since San Francisco experiences the mild winters of zone 10 and also pleasant summers, camellias grow quite well here. 

Although San Francisco is in Zone 10, summers in the Bay Area are on the cooler side. That means you don’t need to worry about your camellia frying in hot temperatures and intense light.

With that said, it’s best to plant your camellia in dappled light and make sure the soil stays consistently moist.

When Is the Best Time to Plant Camellias in California?

Deep red blooming camellia flowers against green leaves

The best time to plant camellias depends on what area of California you’re located in.

If you live in Southern California, the best time to plant is the late fall or winter. And if you live in Northern California, you should plant in the fall, a few months before the first frost arrives.

How to Care for Camellias in California

Caring for camellias in California is similar to caring for them in other locations.

Before you plant, choose a location that receives at least partial shade. If you live in a hotter area, full shade may be a better option.

Next, check the soil—camellia plants like well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter.

If your soil is compacted, you can loosen the soil with a digging fork before planting. If the soil is too high in sand or clay, mix in some finished compost to improve the soil texture.

Once your camellia is in the ground, keep the soil consistently moist but not wet. You should plan on watering your camellia once every few days to once every few weeks, depending on the weather, environment, and time of year.

You can also mulch the area around your plant with wood chips or straw to help conserve moisture.

For more, see our in-depth guide on how long camellias take to grow

Growing Camellias in California FAQs: 

What is the best time to plant camellias in California?

The best time to plant camellias in California is typically in the fall or early spring when the weather is cooler.

What are the ideal growing conditions for camellias in California?

Camellias thrive in well-draining, slightly acidic soil, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. They prefer partial shade, especially in areas with hot summers. Adequate moisture is important, but it’s essential to avoid overwatering. Regular fertilizing throughout the flowering season will also help your camellia plants to thrive. 

Are there specific camellia varieties that are well-suited for California’s climate?

Yes, several camellia varieties are known to perform well in California. Some popular choices include Camellia japonica, Camellia sasanqua, and Camellia reticulata.

How often should I water my camellias in California?

The frequency of watering camellias in California will depend on factors such as the local climate, soil type, and weather conditions. Generally, camellias should be watered deeply and regularly during the growing season, but it’s important to avoid saturated conditions.

Do camellias require any special care or maintenance in California?

Camellias in California may benefit from regular mulching to maintain soil moisture and temperature. Additionally, they may need protection from strong winds and frost during colder periods.

Can camellias tolerate the heat in some parts of California?

While camellias prefer cooler temperatures, some varieties can tolerate the heat in certain parts of California. Camellia sasanqua varieties are generally more heat-tolerant than Camellia japonica.

Are there any common pests or diseases that affect camellias in California?

Camellias can be susceptible to pests such as aphids, scale insects, and spider mites. Diseases like camellia leaf gall and root rot can also occur. Proper sanitation, regular inspection, and appropriate pest control measures can help prevent and manage these issues.

Can I grow camellias in containers in California?

Yes, camellias can be grown successfully in pots or containers in California. Ensure the containers have good drainage and use a suitable potting mix. Container-grown camellias may require more frequent watering and occasional repotting.

Can camellias be used for landscaping in California?

Absolutely! Camellias are popular choices for landscaping in California, as they provide beautiful flowers and evergreen foliage. They can be used as hedges, foundation plantings, or specimen plants in gardens and landscapes throughout the state.

Wrapping Up

Camellias can grow in most of California, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego. However, there are better plants for high elevations that experience cold winter temperatures.


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