Camellias are popular garden plants thanks to their beautiful flowers that bloom just as the world is waking up from its winter slumber. While you can purchase mature camellia plants, you may also be interested in propagating camellia plants yourself. In this guide, I’ll run you through my favorite techniques to successfully grow camellia flowers from seed.
Should I Grow Camellias from Seed?
Before we dive into how to grow camellias from seed, we’ll cover whether you can (and should) propagate these plants from seed.
If you’d ask me my opinion, I’d say you’re better off going with another propagation method. That’s because most camellias today are hybrids, which means their seeds produce plants with different genetics from the parent plants.
After you take the time to germinate and grow out the seed from a camellia you love, there’s no way to say what it will look like. It could give you gorgeous flowers or produce a lackluster plant.
So if you’re up for some experimentation and potential letdowns, go right ahead and grow camellias from seed. But if you want to produce a plant that you know will be beautiful, opting for other propagation methods might be better.
How to Select Camellia Seeds
Once you decide you want to try to grow camellia from seed, the first step is selecting healthy seeds. That means choosing seeds that are mature and able to germinate.
If you’re selecting seeds from a camellia plant you’re growing, you’ll need to wait until the plants produce flowers and then seeds. However, rather than picking the seedpod immediately, you should wait for the seeds to mature.
According to American Camellias, seed maturation depends on the specific camellia variety, but many seeds mature in the fall. You can look for a cracked seed pod which indicates the seeds are mature.
You can also purchase camellia seeds. If you choose to go this route, look for open-pollinated seed that produces plants that are similar to the parent plants.
Some good options for camellia seeds can be found at Eden Brothers and Garden Goods Direct.
How to Grow Camellia Flowers from Seed in 5 Easy Steps
Once you’ve obtained the camellia seeds, follow these steps to germinate the seed and produce a new plant.
1) Soak the Seeds Overnight
Place the camellia seeds in water and allow them to soak overnight or for 12 hours. Soaking will help soften the seed coat and therefore increase the odds of successful germination.
You can also make a small scratch in the seed coat using a knife to help with germination.
2) Place the Seeds in a Container Filled with Potting Mix
The most common way to grow camellias from seed is to germinate the seeds indoors and then transplant the seedlings outdoors.
If you’d like to go this route, you should start by filling small containers with a well-draining potting mix. Four-inch pots work well, as do 50-cell trays or even old plastic yogurt containers. No matter what size container you use, you should ensure it has drainage holes.
Next, fill the container with a soil-free well-draining potting mix. I like to use a mix that’s based in peat moss or coco coir, such as FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil.
Use your finger to make a small indent in the soil, about one-half inch deep. Place one seed in this hole and then cover it with soil. If you’re planting multiple seeds in the same container, space them about one to two inches apart.
Water the soil until it is moist, and then set the seeds somewhere between 60–80°F.
3) Keep Soil Moist
Continue to monitor the seeds and water to keep the soil moist but not wet. Dry soil will discourage germination, while wet soil can cause seeds to rot.
If you have a drainage dish under your seedling trays, make sure to empty it after you water.
4) Watch for Germination and Provide Light
Camellia seeds typically take at least one month to germinate, so you’ll need to be patient! As soon as you see leaves emerge, you’ll need to provide lots of bright light.
If you’re growing the seedlings indoors, you can use grow lights and leave them on for 12 hours each day. Or you can move the seedlings to a sunny spot outdoors.
As long as you keep the soil moist and provide light, the seedlings should begin to grow. You can also provide them with a low-strength fertilizer like fish and seaweed fertilizer.
5) Transplant Outdoors
Once the plants have grown at least four inches tall, they are ready to transplant outdoors.
Select a spot in your garden that has well-draining soil and partial shade or dappled light. Dig a hole just a bit larger than the size of the seedling’s pot and place the root ball in the hole.
Fill in the remainder of the hole with soil and water well.
Camellias are relatively slow-growing plants that take multiple years to mature. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect flowers for at least two years and up to five years after transplanting.
How to Grow Camellia Flowers From Seed FAQs:
How Long Do Camellia Seeds Take to Germinate?
Camellia seeds frequently take at least one month to germinate, but it may take them three or four months to sprout. Keeping the soil moist will help encourage germination.
Can You Grow Camellias from Seed?
Yes, you can grow camellias from seed. However, you should note that many modern camellias are hybrids, which means their seeds will not produce plants identical to the parent plants. If you want to propagate hybrid camellias, stem cuttings are often a better option.
What Is the Best Way to Propagate Camellias?
It depends! Propagating from a cutting will allow you to produce a camellia that is the same as the parent plant and quick to mature. However, you can also propagate camellia plants from seed.
If you choose to propagate camellia flowers from seed, remember that you’ll need to be patient! Keep the soil moist but not wet to encourage the seeds to germinate within a few months.
For more, see our in-depth guide on the meaning and symbolism of camellias and discover our favorite types of red, yellow, white, and pink camellia flowers.
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.
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