Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
Fit For a Queen!
When Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, died, a large spray of camellias from her personal garden was placed on top of her coffin, symbolizing the love she had for this fabulous plant. As a matter of fact, she grew them in all of her gardens, so it was certainly fitting to place one close to her when she died.
If you have a camellia shrub that you would like to "clone," this article will show you how to do it.
These Are the Things You Will Need
- A healthy camellia bush that you would love to duplicate
- Very sharp, sterile cutting instrument (clippers, knife)
- Peat pots
- Potting soil
- Rooting hormone
- Heating pad (optional)
- Plastic wrap
- Spray bottle filled with water for misting
When I first saw a camellia shrub, I didn't know what it was, and went to a nursery, looking at every plant they had in an attempt to find out what it was...you know, without acting dumb and resorting to "asking" someone. The reason I was so curious about the shrub is that it was absolutely stunning, even with no flowers on it. I immediately started reading everything I could on the plant, especially how to duplicate the gorgeous one that was growing in our yard!
Here's what I discovered:
Camellias are very slow to grow, so the cloning method outlined in this article may not be your cup of tea. You'll want to get a very sharp cutting instrument (I use sharp, sterile clippers, but I guess a knife or scissors would work just fine). Make your cut from new growth only (summertime is best) and the cutting only needs to be about three or four inches long, just below a leaf and a few nodes. (I taper the cut at the bottom in order to give the plant more room from which to root.) Then, cut off all the leaves on the bottom half of the cutting, leaving only a few at the very top.
The reason you take the cuttings from new growth is that they will root much easier, and since this plant is a slow grower anyway, I always feel the need to do whatever I can do to speed things up a bit.
Gather a Lot of Cuttings
- Once you have your desired number of cuttings (cut several, in case some don't root), dip each one in a rooting hormone and place each one in a very small peat pot. I like to use a mixture of perlite, peat moss, Miracle Gro potting soil, and sometimes a little bit of sand if I have it. If you want to put several cuttings in one big container, that's okay too. Just make sure you plant them about two inches deep and leave about two to three inches of space between them.
- Your cuttings needs some leaf presence to continue photosynthesis, but camellia leaves tend to get in my way, so I cut off about two-thirds of each one. This will also keep the cutting from becoming dehydrated, as the entire leaf won't be hogging all the moisture.
- Now, learn the difference between the words moist and wet, because your camellia leaves that you have left at the top of the cutting would love for you to keep them moist. I do this by using a spray bottle and misting them pretty often. In one regard, they are like babies...they DON'T like to be wet!!! I have been known to place some type of waterproof cover on top of a heating pad, then put camellia plants on top of it (don't do this with a baby). They like a lot of bottom heat, so I like to oblige them.
- Finally, when the cutting is trimmed, dipped, potted, misted, watered lightly and placed on a heating pad, put a plastic cover over the top to keep in moisture. Next, wait for signs of life, and finally, transplant to your yard when the plant is big enough to no longer need hand-holding.
What Is Perlite?
The little balls you find in your potting soil that look like tiny bits of Styrofoam are actually perlite. Perlite has a high water content that is formed by the hydration of obsidian and is a non-organic additive used to aerate the media. It occurs naturally and has an unusual property; it expands greatly when heated sufficiently, as it is an amorphous volcanic glass. When heated to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit it will pop very much like popcorn and expand to several times its original size, which results in an incredibly lightweight material.
Tips and Warnings
- Do use a rooting hormone.
- Do mist them often, but don't keep them wet.
- Once you transplant your shrub to your yard, keep the soil around the plant very acidic.
- Make sure, if you use a heating pad for bottom heat to turn it on the lowest possible setting, and to completely cover it with something waterproof, so when there is drainage of water you won't get electrocuted, which is a pretty scary thought if you think about it.
The Yellow Camellia (Camellia Nitidissima)
Additional Links With Valuable Information on Camellias
- Propagating Camellias (Cuttings and Seeds)
The Virginia Camellia Society explains their recommended procedures for the propagation of camellias.
- Rooting Camellias
In this article, Ray Bond of the American Camellia Society explains exactly how to go about rooting camellias. This article is thorough and well-worth a read (or two).
- Your Future Camellias Could Be Free!
The online Better Homes and Gardens magazine (they know a lot of stuff) explains how you can duplicate your favorite plants, including camellias, for free.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
Patricia Pichler on October 25, 2019:
MY cuttings have been in the pots with plastic bags over them for 4 weeks they have lots of new leaves is this a good sign. Thanks for your advice. Pat
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on March 27, 2018:
Thank you Tina. You are so right. I just stuck the wrong picture up there. I have put the correct one in. Thank you so much for letting me know.
Tina on March 26, 2018:
Thank you for your posting. I have 2 camellias I will be trying to root. One comment, are you sure that first photo is a Camellia and not a Peony? : )
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on September 16, 2014:
Sorry for the delay. Weekly misting will work just fine.
Peter Lyall on September 08, 2014:
Thanks for the great article, we have taken our cuttings, one question though, how often to mist the leaves? we are thinking weekly or fortnightly are we right? Peter
Manjula on January 10, 2014:
thank you very much for the tip on how to propogate from cutting .
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on October 01, 2013:
I am going to do this but now I am going to have to go sneaking around looking for rooting hormone cause I just don't want to ask! Just kidding, but I have never heard of it but will find it and do me a lot of these this coming spring, I love these and have so many pictures but only one tree myself, so I will let others share with me, lol. Will be interested to see what else you have. You really get a copyright on your quizzes if you don't have one and make a book of those to sell! E-book if nothing else.
grase sydney on May 14, 2013:
Thank You, very informative, will try to propagate with your instructive hints. Grase Sydney Australia
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 17, 2012:
Very informative hub and I learn many things here. My father loves gardening and I'll share this hub with him. Thanks for writing. Voted up!
Tariq Mehmood Khan from Seattle, Washington on September 17, 2012:
Good Job.Impressive article.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 17, 2012:
I have several camellia bushes in our yard but purchased them as shrubs in the nursery. Nice to know how to propagate them from cuttings. Thanks for this informative hub. Up votes plus will share.
Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on September 17, 2012:
I have camelia but never tried to grow it from cutting. It seems so complicated. Now probably will try it. Great info!
Jill Spencer from United States on September 17, 2012:
Can't wait to try your tips. Fabulous hub!