How To Grow Camellia in Containers: Camellia Care In Pots

Growing camellias in containers is quite easy if you take care for soil, feeding camellias in pots, when and how to prune camellias and how often to water camellias in pots. You can grow camellias in pots outside and indoors as well, I am growing camellias in pots in Sydney, Australia. Potted camellias look great on balconies, patios, porches, verandas and gardens.

Camellia Flower
Camellia Flower

Can camellias grow in pots? Yes, you can grow camellia Sasanqua and camellia Japonica in containers.

Camellias, known as the Queens of the winter flowers are evergreen shrubs and are amongst the world's best flowering plants producing exquisite blooms. They are very hardy and disease and insect resistant plants having year round attractive and glossy green foliage. These plants are an ideal choice for garden hedges or screens.

Camellia Growing Tips

Best Camellias For Pots: Choice of Camellia Plants for Containers

For growing camellia plants in containers, it is very important to select a variety that has slow, compact and bushy growth, the vigorous growing camellia plants will needed frequent pruning and repotting.

Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) vs. Sasanqua (Camellia Sasanqua) camellias

Out of various camellia varieties, the two most popular varieties are C. Sasanqua and C. Japonica. These two camellias are very quite similar, except in their bloom time and tolerance to sun.

The japonica camellias prefer shade and warmer temperatures and bloom during late summer. 

The Sasanqua camellia varieties are generally more tolerant to sun, but less tolerant to cold and produce larger blooms during spring to early summer. So camellias sasanqua are perfect for growing in pots on sunny balconies.  Camellia sasanqua is generally faster-growing than Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia).

Camellias can also be grown from cuttings (how to grow camellia plant from cuttings, how to grow tea from seed at home)

Best Camellias For Containers: Best Sasanqua Camellias

  1. Pink flowers: Shi Shi Gashira, Lucinda, Marge Miller and Otome
  2. White flowers: Snow, Silver Dollar or Mine No Yuki
  3. Red flowers:  Dwarf Shishi, Simply Red or Yuletide

Shi Shi Gashira and Yuletide are particularly good camellias to grow in pots and containers. But reticulatas are not suitable for containers due to their rapid growth, that will need frequent pruning and repotting.

Container Size

You may ask, how big a pot you need to grow camellia?

  1. Do not plant your camellia in too large a pot because the excessive wet soil in the large container may cause root rot. At the same time, the container must be large enough to allow the root ball to develop.
  2. The container should provide really good drainage by plenty of drainage holes.
  3. You can select plastic, wood, terracotta, metal, concrete or glazed ceramics pots. I use plastic pots which are lightweight and cheap, offer good drainage. But the plastic pots absorb too much heat during hot summers, the soil temperature can reach up to 80°C (180°F). This may not be a problem as the camellia plants are placed in shade or partial sun.
  4. You should also consider the shape and the size pot so the plant does not fall over in the wind as it grows.

Repotting Camellia

Why To Repot Camellias

You will need to repot the plant in bigger pots to enable root growth. However, if you are happy with the size of your camellia, take out the plant from the pot and prune an inch of the roots and reuse the same pot.

The potted camellias need to be replanted every 3 years in a pot that is 2 inch larger in size.

When to Repot Camellias

Repotting may be best done in late autumn or winter when the plant is dormant. In Australia, the best time for repotting is during August to September.

If you see some roots emerging out of the drainage holes, you should repot the plant. Or when you buy a new camellia plant form nursery, you should repot it.

How To Repot Camellias

  1. While repotting, snip off the lower one third of the tap root before planting. This will encourage to grow more fibrous roots going sideways into the soil rather than reaching deeply.
  2. Between repotting, you can replace the top 2 inch soil with new soil or compost when your plant begins to set buds.
  3. To repot a store bought or previously potted plant, gently tap around the pot to loosen the soil and take out the plant from the pot.
  4. Next examine the root system. Healthy roots look firm, flexible, moist and white to brown in colour. Remove any roots with black colour, these are due to rot.
  5. Put a layer of soil in the pot, then place the plant and backfill with soil. Press gently with your hands to firm the plant. Water well to release the trapped air.

Location: Where To Plant Camellias

  1. Camellia prefer shade or dappled sun, specially during hot sun.
  2. Don’t leave camellias in full sunlight.
  3. The question often asked is, can camellias grow in full shade? I am growing camellia in a pot in full shade for the last several years and getting stunning large size beautiful flowers every year in Sydney, Australia.

Soil For Camellias In Pots

  1. The important requirement for the soil mix for camellia plant is that it must be free-draining and also able to retain moisture for the roots to get water.
  2. Mix some river sand or perlite to the potting mix to add aeration, which helps to add oxygen to the plant roots.
  3. Standing water on soil will result in poor root growth and possible death of the plant.
  4. The soil mixture should have a pH of 5.5-6.5. you can use an acidic potting mix suitable for azaleas and blueberries.
  5. Mix plenty of compost or cow manure to add nutrition to the soil.

Watering Camellias: How Often to Water a Camellia Plant in a Pot

  1. Consistent moisture is very important for a healthy camellia, then the question is how often to water camellias in pots.
  2. Water deeply when the top 2 inch soil feel dry to the touch until it drains out in the saucer. Ensure that the plant is not sitting in water to prevent root rot. Also empty the saucer below the pot.
  3. In the hot summers you may need to water it everyday.

Mulch For Camellias

  1. Put a thick layer of shredded wood mulch on the soil to help reduce evaporation and preserve moisture. I use sugar cane mulch on my sasanqua camellia which is growing in a pot for the last several years.
  2. Mulch helps in water conservation.
  3. Mulch adds valuable nutrients to the soil released during its breakdown.

Fertilizer For Camellias: Feeding Camellias In Pots

  1. Correct feeding camellias in pots is important. Camellias need fertilizer made for acidic plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons fertilizer.
  2. The potted camellia plants need to be fed more often because of drainage and nutrition depletion.
  3. Apply fertilizer from spring to autumn (fall) when the plant grows and form flower buds.
  4. Camellias growing in containers will need less fertilizer than those planted in the ground. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots.
  5. Sprinkle fertilizer granules along the rim of the container and then raked in.  Water well after fertilization.
  6. Feed a slow release fertilizer to soil every month from early spring and fall.
  7. Always follow package directions to avoid burning roots.

Pruning Camellia in Pots: How To Prune Camellias

  1. Pruning is not needed, but you can prune to limit the size and shape of the plant.
  2. Prune your camellias soon after flowering has ended to encourage the production of more blooms for the next season.
  3. Only light pruning is recommended. Hard pruning can be done for better shape and tighter canopy, but it would take two years to re-flower.
  4. Deadhead the spent flowers if you do not want to collect the seeds.

Camellia Care In Pots In Winter

Protect Camellias During Winter Temperatures

  1. Water your camellia prior to extreme temps to help keep the roots from freezing.
  2. During extreme cold conditions, move the plant indoors or in unheated garage with indirect but natural light.  Mist the leaves daily to provide humidity if the humidity level in your home is low. Or keep the pot on small pebbles on a saucer filled with water to add humidity to the air.
  3. You can wrap the plant by a blanket or bubble wrap.
  4. You can place your plant near a wall that will provide heat and protection from harsh winds.
  5. Cold snaps and strong icy winds can cause winter burn resulting in brown leaves and dieback.

    Camellia Plant Growing in a Pot
    Camellia Plant Growing in a Pot

Common Camellia Pests and Diseases

  1. Camellia is generally free from any serious pest infestation.
  2. Discoloration of leaves, dropping of buds and leaves, black or brown spots and holes in leaves, and poor  growth of the plant are the indication of pest attack.
  3. If the plant unhealthy and too dry, then aphids, scales, spider mites and caterpillars may attack. You may see ants on the plant seeing ants if aphids are on the plant.
  4. Remove caterpillars by hand.
  5. The aphids are found primarily on new growth. You can remove by hand or a brush.
  6. A strong stream of water can knock all aphids and scales. Do this in the morning on a sunny day so the water has a chance to evaporate.

Common Camellia Problems

Why camellia  drops buds?

  1. If buds start to grow too early, they may drop before they are able to flower.
  2. The camellia can drop buds if the plant has become root bound. In that case, you will notice roots showing through drainage holes of the pot or curling of the roots near the edges of the pot. Repot the plant into a bigger container will help. The rootbound over-grown plants may get mildew growth due to airflow restriction by dense foliage.

Why camellia drops its leaves? 

  1. If you camellia is in full sun and it is under-watered, they you may notice its leaves turning brown in summer and then dropping. To prevent camellia dropping leaves, either move the plant in shade and/or increase watering.
  2. The compacted roots or crowded roots in the pot may cause brown leaves and leaf drop.

Videos on how to grow camellias

How to grow and care for camellia in pots
How to grow camellia from cuttings