Growing Camellia Indoors

Camellias are evergreen flowering ornamental shrubs that are native to China and Japan.  This is a very diverse group of plants with a variety of flower colors, shapes and even scent.

Camellias are not native to the US, but were imported into our country and have been around since the 18th century.  In the warmer part of the country the Camellia is grown outside.  Some varieties stay small while others get quite large and can reach heights of 20'.  There are some varietieis that can be grown outside in zones 6 and 7 but they need protection from the winter winds and cold.  The most common species,  Japonica is known for it’s blooms that can vary greatly with each variety and is the species most readily produced commercially today.  There are over 8000 known varieties of Japonica in the U.S. alone. 

 Camellias have successfully grown indoors for years in climates that are not conducive to outdoor grown varieties.  


Camellias need a great deal of  light.  In northern areas, that would mean full sun winter through spring.  During the summer, they need protection from direct sun. 


Camellias do not like to be wet or dry.  Moist is best.  Do not let your plant dry out.  If you can water it with rainwater that is best.


I keep my camellia in a cool sunny room all winter.  These plants prefer it cool – lower 50’s is ideal  while it is setting buds – normally late summer and early fall and through it’s bloom season.  You can leave your camellia in average home temperatures the rest of  the year.  Place the plant outside in the summer but protect it from strong summer sun.


These plants prefer a bit of humidity over very dry air.  Some believe misting is good for them, but I am not convinced this really works.


Camellias need a balanced fertilizer when they are actively growing, during the spring and summer.  The use of a liquid fertilizer on a regular basis would be good, or there are many granular fertilizers that are available to provide an adequate feeding.  Check with your local extension agent for more information on what types of fertilizers to use.   


Root rot can occur if your soil holds too much water. I like to use a well drained soil mix and add a bit of compost.  Using leaf mold or actual compost seems to keep these plants happy.


Camellias can be grown in a wide variety of containers.  The biggest must is that the container have good drainage to prevent root rot.  The plants grow fairly slowly so moving them into larger containers should not be necessary except every few years at most.


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