Camellia plants are slow-growing evergreen shrubs or trees that take years to reach their full size. Most camellias won’t reach full maturity until a few years after they start producing flowers. Most camellia cultivars found in gardens come from three main camellia species. Camellia sasanqua cultivars usually grow more quickly than Camellia japonica or Camellia sinensis cultivars. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about how long camellias take to grow.
How Long Do Camellias Take to Grow?
Camellia sasanqua cultivars are the fastest-growing type of camellia, but even they produce only up to 12 inches of new growth yearly. Although camellias grow slowly, most will start flowering within a few years. However, some camellia varieties may take up to five years to flower.
Camellias are native to parts of eastern and southeastern Asia, such as China, Japan, and Indonesia. They thrive in warm tropical or subtropical climates, such as USDA Zones 7 to 10. Depending on the variety, camellias bloom from fall until spring in these warm climates.
The slow-growing nature of camellias can be explained by their growth cycle. These plants produce new flowers and leaves on new growth. After flowering, they spend most of the year developing the next year’s flower buds. This requires a lot of energy, so they grow slowly compared to many other evergreen shrubs.
How Long Can Camellias Live For?
Due to their slow-growing nature, camellias can live for decades and even centuries. Camellias were first cultivated in ancient Chinese and Japanese societies and were used extensively in imperial gardens. Some plants still growing in the grounds of the Japanese imperial palace are over 500 years old!
How Tall and Wide Do Camellias Grow?
Most camellia species will grow 6 to 15 feet tall and approximately 6 to 10 feet wide. Most species grow as evergreen shrubs, although some camellias grow as trees reaching up to 50 feet tall. Several dwarf varieties have been developed that reach an average height of 2 to 6 feet.
However, due to their slow growth rate, many camellias take decades to reach their full height. Camellia japonica varieties can take up to a hundred years to reach 25 feet high.
Factors Influencing How Fast Camellias Grow
Although camellias grow slowly, providing ideal conditions helps them grow quickly. Contrary to popular belief, camellia shrubs aren’t difficult to grow as long as you meet their basic needs. Here are some factors to keep in mind when growing camellias:
Camellias are particularly fussy about soil conditions. They need acidic soils with a pH range between 5.0 and 6.5. They also need rich, moist soils with plenty of nutrients. However, the soil still needs to be well-draining so that it doesn’t become waterlogged.
Most camellias require partial shade, although some prefer full shade. Camellia sasanqua cultivars grow well in full sun. They prefer morning sunlight rather than intense afternoon sun. Camellias also need a sheltered spot that protects the flower buds from cold winds.
Camellias don’t require much fertilizer to grow well. If you want to fertilize your camellia, apply a dose of ericaceous fertilizer once flowering finishes. This provides nutrients to kickstart the development of next year’s flower buds.
Camellias should only be pruned once a year straight after flowering finishes. Due to the slow growth rate, pruning is mainly about shaping the plant. Pruning camellias later in the year runs the risk of removing the developing flower buds.
Camellias are slow-growing evergreen shrubs that take decades to reach their full size. Even the fastest-growing camellias only add about 12 inches of height each year. Camellias only become mature a few years after they begin flowering.