Will Camellias Grow in Full Shade? The Challenge of Low-Light Conditions

Camellia plants are flowering evergreen shrubs that are popular garden plants. Before you grow camellias in your garden, determine if you have the proper light conditions. We’re going to cover whether or not camellias will grow in full shade as well as the ideal lighting for these plants.

Will Camellias Grow in Full Shade? The Challenge of Low-Light Conditions

Can Camellia Plants Grow in Full Shade?

Potted camellia plants growing in the shade without flowers

Unfortunately, camellia plants cannot grow in full shade. While the plants may survive for a year or two, they will not thrive.

So, what type of light conditions do camellias prefer? It depends.

Exact light requirements depend on the camellia species and variety, but most camellias require 6–8 of daily light. It’s important to note that camellias will struggle if they receive insufficient or too much light.

What Type of Light Is Best for Camellia Plants?

A bright pink blooming camellia plants in sunny growing conditions

Most types of camellia will grow best in one of two light conditions.

One option is to plant your camellia in an area where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Planting on the east-facing side of a building or hedgerow will provide these conditions.

Another option is to plant in an area that receives dappled sun. A forest understory and the area under a shade tree often provide this type of light.

What Are Signs My Camellia Plant Needs More Light?

A camellia plant in full shade with pale green to yellow leaves and no flowers

Numerous signs may indicate your camellia needs more light. 

Stunted Growth

First, check for stunted growth. Camellia plants are relatively fast-growing plants that grow 6–12 inches per year.

If your plants don’t seem to be growing at the proper rate, a lack of light may be to blame. However, improper water, temperature, and fertilization can also lead to slowed growth.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the fastest growing camellia varieties

Lack of Flowers

Most people plant camellias for their stunning flowers. That means flowerless camellia plants can be a big letdown!

While many factors can lead to a lack of blooms, poor light is one common reason.

Flowering is an energy-intensive process—if plants don’t receive enough solar energy, they may be unable to produce flowers during the camellia blooming season.

Elongated Internodes

When plants don’t receive enough light, they tend to look like they are reaching for more light. Technically speaking, the plants develop long internodes, AKA the stem portions between plant leaves.

Rather than appearing stout and bushy, the plants appear spindly.

Small Leaves

Tiny leaves (and curling leaves) are one more sign that your camellia may need more light.

When your plant doesn’t receive enough light, it lacks the energy necessary to complete basic growth. That means a lack of light will lead it to produce smaller leaves.

Since plants absorb sunlight through their leaves, these tiny leaves mean the plant will remain stunted.

Pale Leaves

Camellia leaves are typically deep green. However, if the plants don’t receive enough light, you may notice that the leaves appear faded or dull.

Light green or yellowish leaves may indicate that your camellia needs access to more light.

That said, discolored leaves can also indicate problems with soil moisture, drainage, and temperature. So make sure to examine all factors before assuming the light is to blame!

What Types of Camellias Grow Best in the Shade?

Bright red camellia flowers in bloom

If you want to grow camellias in a shadier location, you can choose varieties that are well-suited to thrive in low light.

Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ 

This type of Japanese camellia can thrive with as little as four hours of dappled sunlight. It is also hardy down to USDA zone 6.

It produces loads of bright red flowers each spring.

Camellia japonica ‘Seafoam’

This variety displays glossy green leaves year-round and stunning white flowers in the spring.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’

‘Setsugekka’ produces white flowers with delicately ruffled petals. As long as the plant receives six hours of daily light, it will produce flowers in the late winter or early spring.

Camellias and Shade FAQs: 

What Type of Light Is Best for Japanese Camellias?

Japanese camellias (Camellia japonica) grow best in partial shade. They will thrive in dappled light and can also grow well if they receive morning light and afternoon shade.

What Type of Light Is Best for Sasanqua Camellias?

Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua) will thrive when they receive at least six hours of bright sun. Planting them on the eastern side of a building or hedge will provide them with the ideal mix of morning sun and afternoon shade.

What are the Challenges of Growing Camellias in Full Shade?

The main challenge of growing camellias in full shade is that they may not produce as many flowers as those grown in partial shade or full sun. They may also grow more slowly, and their leaves may be smaller and less vibrant.

Will Camellias Grow in Full Shade: Wrapping Up

Remember that most camellias thrive in partial sun or dappled light. These plants will not thrive in full shade.

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