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How to Grow and Care for Camellia Bushes in Outdoor Southern Landscaping

My grandpa loved gardening. I learned much from him. To this day I enjoy puttering around in our garden, growing plants for beauty and food.

Camellia blossom in our landscaping.

Camellia blossom in our landscaping.

Camellia Plants

Native to Asia and from the plant family called Theaceae, there are perhaps hundreds of species but thousands of cultivars now grown all around the world.

Carl Linnaeus is credited with a modern nomenclature system of classifying plants with a two-named system of genus and the species within that genus. He named the camellia in honor of George Joseph Kamel—a naturalist, pharmacist as well as missionary—who was the first to describe the beauty of this plant.

Tea is made from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis. The most common cultivar is the ornamental Japanese camellia (C. Japonica) which is the type that graces our garden.

The thick glossy evergreen leaves are pretty year round. During the several months when the camellia bushes and even those grown as trees are in bloom that is the time of year eagerly awaited by gardeners growing these beauties. It is also a time when the public benefits from their glorious show-stopping display of blossoms. They are a stunning addition to almost any outdoor landscaping project be it residential landscaping or even commercial.

One of our pretty camellia blossoms

One of our pretty camellia blossoms

How to Care for Camellias

  • The soil should be acidic and well-drained similar to the care of azaleas.
  • Provide some partial shade for one's camellia plants. Bright shade is ideal.
  • Fertilize in early spring and perhaps mid-summer. The same type of fertilizer that is suitable for azaleas and rhododendrons also is perfect for camellias.
  • After the blossoms have ended for the year is the time that these bushes should be trimmed to keep them within desired shapes. If cut back later in the year one might inadvertently be cutting off next years flower production. Slow to grow, not much pruning is typically required.
  • Cold hardy in the south, if grown in more northern climates they must be protected from hard freezes.
  • Water more often until the plants are established. After that, normal rainfall will suffice unless it is hot and dry for extended periods. Just maintain a reasonable amount of moisture throughout the year.

If all of that is accomplished, sit back and be prepared for the pizazz and wow factor of using camellias in your outdoor landscaping.

Colors and Sizes of Camellias

These shrubs can sometimes be found with blossoms in a pure white coloration but most often are found in all shades of pink gradations even up to a red. There is also a yellow blooming variety. Some have striations of colors while others appear to be splotched.

There are single as well as double blooming varieties. Sizes of blossoms vary from small to large. The most diminutive flowers we have are about three inches in diameter while our pink colored one in the backyard is a whopping six inches!

To purposely grow large blossoms, remove all but one bud if there are clusters of buds growing together. Leave two to four inches between adjacent buds. Do not remove buds if you desire to have a profusion of smaller blossoms as shown in the photo below.

Camellia x williamsii 'Mary Christian'

Camellia x williamsii 'Mary Christian'

The Popularity of This Plant

The camellia is the state flower of Alabama. Newberg, Oregon is known as the City of Camellias.

Depending upon the variety one can expect the blossoms to start opening primarily during the winter months of the year. Here in Houston, we see them blooming from late January to early April.

The American Camellia Society sanctions cooperative camellia shows in many states. Here are the places during the 2017- 2018 which hosted shows. Some of these hosting sites were in botanical gardens while others were in churches or various public spaces.

Shows in October of 2017 were held here:

  • Perry, Georgia
  • Columbia, South Carolina

November of 2017:

  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Boston, Georgia
  • Byron, Georgia
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Gulfport, Mississippi

December of 2017:

  • Slidell, Louisianna
  • Conroe, Texas
  • Pensacola, Florida

January of 2018:

  • Covington, Louisiana
  • Gainesville, Florida
  • Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
  • La Cañada Flintridge, California
  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Aiken, South Carolina
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Winter Park, Florida
  • Arcadia, California
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Kenner, Louisiana
  • La Cañada Flintridge, California
  • Ocala, Florida

February of 2018:

  • Atherton, California
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Lakeland, Florida
  • Brookhaven, Louisiana
  • Quitman, Georgia
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • West Columbia, South Carolina
  • Dothan, Alabama
  • San Marino, California
  • Thomasville, Georgia
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • La Cañada Flintridge, California
  • Redwood City, California
  • Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Conroe, Texas
  • Fort Valley, Georgia
  • La Cañada Flintridge, California (These people love their camellias!)
  • Santa Clara, California

March of 2018:

  • Columbus, Georgia
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Bakersfield, California
  • Sacramento, California
  • Pleasant Hill, California
  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Modesto, California

April of 2018:

  • Potomac, Maryland
  • Newberg, Oregon

It is easy to see from these shows that the heaviest of blooming times are from January to March.

Camellia bush in our backyard when in bloom.  These blossoms are huge and definitely showy!

Camellia bush in our backyard when in bloom. These blossoms are huge and definitely showy!

Treatments for Pest Problems

Camellias have relatively few pest problems.

  • Occasionally aphids might be spotted. They are usually attracted to new growth and suck nutrients from it causing it to curl up, wilt and die. You can pinch off the affected areas.
  • Those are easy to eliminate with good hearty spraying from a garden hose. Be sure to address the undersides of leaves with a vigorous stream of water. Spider mites can be eliminated in the same manner. If you have spotted leaves that eventually turn yellow look for webbing on the undersides of leaves.
  • Horticultural oil spray might be needed if a tea scale is spotted. If there is some yellow speckling on the tops of leaves, look for a white fuzzy growth on the bottom of the leaves. That will be your cue as to what is wrong.

In the second photo from the top, you can spot the yellow spots on leaves. At the time I did not know about the tea scale and did not treat that plant as needed. That shrub eventually died.

Other natural methods of prevention for these pests include using herbal pesticides, neem, diatomaceous earth and presenting your garden with ladybugs which are natural enemies of spider mites and aphids.

Another one of our camellias in bloom.

Another one of our camellias in bloom.

Attention-Grabbing Camellias

What first drew my attention to using these pretty shrubs in outdoor landscaping was the neighbor's house adjacent to my mother's former home in Houston, Texas. It was during winter, and limited things were in bloom. The pizazz and wow factor of some gorgeous saucer-like blossoms adorning the shrubbery next door practically invited oohs and aahs!

The bushes were planted near the foundation of their home and near the front door. Seen from the street, the evergreen shrubs laden with large and showy blossoms were pretty. But oh my! Walking up the neighbor's sidewalk to their front door, I was almost forced to slow down and admire the colorful charm of those spectacular flowers.

When my mother sold her home, and we sold ours and found one that we could all share, we decided to add a few more camellia plants to those already here.

When they are in bloom, I like to pick some of the pretty blossoms and float them in a shallow dish of water using them as a table centerpiece. They seem to last in that state every bit as long as had the flowers remained on the outdoor plants.

“The old woman paid no attention to the camellia until that morning, when a fleck of pink caught her eye. The single saucer-size blossom was more magnificent than she could ever have imagined. More beautiful than any rose she'd ever seen, it swayed in the morning breeze with such an air of royalty, the old woman felt the urge to curtsey in its presence.”

— Sarah Jio, The Last Camellia

Close-up of a Camellia blossom in our garden.

Close-up of a Camellia blossom in our garden.


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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it possible to grow camellia bushes in southern New Jersey?

Answer: Thanks to some new varieties of camellias, it is now possible. Click on this link to learn more:

Question: How far apart do I have to plant camellias?

Answer: Camellia plants should have a space of about 5 feet if planting them as an individual specimen plant. If you wish to grow them as a hedge, plant them no closer than 3 feet apart.

Question: Is it possible to grow camellias successfully from cuttings? I have seen a few articles, but I'm not sure, but I trust your advice.

Answer: Yes, it is possible to propagate camellia plants from cuttings. The main reason many people prefer to purchase already established camellia plants in nurseries is that they are slow growing.

Here are some links to articles that show how to take cuttings effectively, root the cuttings, and replicate the camellia bush of choice.

Question: Should I cover my Camellia bush if the temperature is expected to drop to 20?

Answer: Typically in the south, and if the camellia bush has already become well established, it can withstand a few days of below-freezing temperatures. Watering plants before a freeze is good advice as is mulching them. Here is one of several good websites that might offer you more information:

It is a new plant and not yet well-established in the ground, to be safe you might wish to cover it. I hope that helps!

Question: I have planted seven new plants since we moved three years ago. I brought two of them with me. One of the new ones has not had any flowers in 2+ years. Can I graft one of the others to it?

Answer: Answering your question is tricky. You did not mention what types of plants you have. Some plants take longer to bloom than others. Also, the placement of your plants may or may not be in the proper location regarding sunlight, soil conditions, etc. Since you purchased some of them locally, I would suggest going to a nursery and consulting with them.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 31, 2020:

Hi Meri,

As with all shrubs that can grow up to significant heights, it is best to allow some space between a house and where they are planted to be safe.

Meri on January 31, 2020:

I love camellias and would like to plant some next to my house for some privacy and of course the beauty. My question is regarding the root base. Is it better to plant them away from the house?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

I hope that you have your very own garden someday and as you wish, have it planted with camellias and other plants that you enjoy. Thanks for your votes and the shares.

C E Clark from North Texas on May 22, 2013:

I love camellias, they're so pretty and they smell so nice. This is a wonderful hub for people who want to know how to grow camillias, how to take care of them, etc. Packed with information, beautiful photos and great videos. If I were where I could have a garden or a yard, I would definitely want to plant some camellias.

Voted up, BAUI, and will share!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2013:

Hi Roberta,

You must be a great gardener if you have actually trimmed your camellia bushes into topiary shapes and started them from cuttings. I'm impressed! Generally ours bloom in the winter however we had such a mild winter this last year that they have been thrown off of their normal schedule a bit. I really don't care when they bloom. Like you, I just enjoy it when they do. Thanks for your comment.

RTalloni on April 18, 2013:

Your assessment of camillias impact in the garden is well put. They add so much with their glossy green leaves and profuse blooms. We've moved our around the yard several times, changing their location due to changes in garden beds, and they've done very well. I've rooted a few and grown them in topiary shapes (two large ones have outgrown their shape!). The only problem is that we can never count on their bloom time because winter weather here is all over the board! We sure enjoy them whenever they bloom, though. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 10, 2013:

Hi pstraubie48,

Our camellia bushes are in full bud and several of them are blooming right now. So pretty! Hope you get more planted in your Florida garden since you like them so much. Hope that this new year of 2013 brings you peace and happiness. Appreciate your comment. :)

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on January 10, 2013:

Lovely pictures. These are so lovely. I only have a few right now but the home I lived in for many years had bunches and bunches and bunches of them ---all different colors. I enjoyed them so much. I hope to add to them the ones I now have.

thank you for sharing this with us.

Happy tenth day of this new year.

Sending Angels your way :) ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 08, 2012:

Hello Revedev,

Thank you for your question. I found an excellent link that tells how to propagage camellia bushes from an existing plant. The air layering method is the one I would try but you may prefer others. Here is the link and good luck with your efforts:

Revedev on January 07, 2012:

What is the best way to start a new camellia plant from an existing plant? My mother is growing a bush from my grandmother's garden and I want to start a plant of my own.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2011:

Hello SamboRambo,

Yes, camellias are blooming in the wintertime (here in Houston) when a lot of other things are dormant. Thanks for your comment.

Samuel E. Richardson from Salt Lake City, Utah on April 28, 2011:

Very useful, and great photos! I didn't know about cooler weather flowers.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 13, 2011:

Hi Cheryl,

What is particularly nice about camellias in this climate is that they are blooming when so much else is dormant. Glad you liked this hub and thanks for your comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on April 13, 2011:


You have beauty all around you. I love camellias and the informative information you have freely shared with everyone. The photos and videos are awesome. Congratulations on another wonderful and beautiful hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 12, 2011:

Hello travel_man1971,

Good luck with planting camellias in your area of the Philippines. I can see where you would think that camellias resemble roses. The leaves of the flower are much thicker than that of roses or hibiscus. As to being cross bred, I don't know the original origin, but I doubt it. Thanks for your comment.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on April 12, 2011:

Congrats, MS. Peggy! It's really a WOW factor!I hope I could also plant camillas here in the Philippines, though it's not endemic here. It resembles like rose and hibiscus. Is it cross-bred?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2011:

Hi Stephanie,

Guess you cannot complain too much if you missed you camellia blossoms by being on a winter RV adventure. (Smile) You probably saw enough other beautiful sites to make up for it. Thanks for the comment.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on April 11, 2011:

This is a beautiful hub, Peggy, and so useful. I love camellias, but as a transplanted northerner have no idea what to do to make them grow in our new North Carolina garden. Unfortunately, our one beautiful pink camellia bush decided to bloom in January or February when we were on our winter RV adventures. Maybe next year we'll see it bloom. Thanks for the great information and beautiful photographs!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2011:

Hi Simone,

Hooray! I'm excited to have won a daily drawing thanks to HubPages. Smiling. Still smiling! Glad to hear that you liked this hub about camellias and thanks for the votes and your welcomed comments.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 11, 2011:

Oh, and one more thing- this Hub just won the Daily Drawing for Day 10 of So You Think You Can Write Online! Congrats!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 11, 2011:

I have always adored camillas- I have such good memories of them! This is a fabulous guide too. The photos are so beautiful, and the video and map are awesome too!! Voted up, useful, and beautiful!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2011:


Glad to hear that you liked these pictures of the camellias. Thanks for your comment.

SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on April 11, 2011:

Beautiful pictures, thanks for a great hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hi Billy,

Actually the camellias are not all that fragrant compared to other flowers, but we have allysum and roses to fill in that gap. Ah...yes the wine on the back patio...nice! :-)

billyaustindillon on April 10, 2011:

Yes lets see how it ends up - you gotta love the weather in Houston right now - perfect for the garden and all - a day on the back patio with a nice glass of wine. Oh the smell of those camellias can't be bad.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hello ImChemist,

So very happy to hear that you enjoyed these pictures regarding the use of Camellias in outdoor landscaping. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hi Gus,

Perhaps you'd better wear some sunglasses. Haha! Thanks for the compliment on these camellia photos and for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hi Billy,

I know. It is usually feast or famine around here. No rain and then torrential ones. After the last few really harsh winters, I am no longer planting things that did not survive with the exception of some annual flowers. Maybe this is a portend of winters to come? Our tropicals like ginger are coming up but from ground level so once again will probably not get fence high this year.

ImChemist on April 10, 2011:

Thanks for sharing this amazing pictures that i rate it beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hi Truckstop Sally,

Thanks for your comment. We do enjoy our yard and enjoy the flowering plants like the camellias at different times of the year.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hi Becky,

Happy to hear that you enjoyed this hub about Camellias and their use in outdoor landscaping. Thanks for your comment.

Gustave Kilthau from USA on April 10, 2011:

Hi Peggy - Once again you have knocked our eyes silly with all of those beautiful photos and a great article. Thanks.

Gus :-)))

billyaustindillon on April 10, 2011:

Peggy congrats on some great Camellias - it has been dry and one wonders when we get some rain to cool us down - this after those freak freezes early in the year has left a few gardens battered - particularly the tropicals.

Truckstop Sally on April 10, 2011:

Thanks for an informative hub. Camellias are beautiful and hardy too. I imagine your yard is an amazing sight!

Becky from Oklahoma on April 10, 2011:

Lots of great information about camellias and beautiful pictures too. Thanks for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2011:

Hello E.A.Wright,

You are correct in your assessment in relating them to a Christmas time of year. In Houston they bloom in the winter-time of the year...some a little ahead of Christmas and some after, all depending upon which camellia plant variety it is. Thanks for your comment.

E. A. Wright from New York City on April 09, 2011:

I think of camellias as a Christmas flower, but it might just be that living in California gave me a skewed view of the seasons.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2011:

Hi Genna,

Camellias could certainly be considered a romantic flower. They certainly are beautiful! Thanks for your comment and glad that you liked the photos.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2011:

Hi Billy,

Our camellias are just about finished blooming for the season but they were spectacular this year. As to wet and overcast times...we could surely use a bit of rain right now! Hoping for some natural precipitation soon. Thanks for the first comment.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 09, 2011:

HP has once again neglected me to send an e-mail with a list of hubs by my favorites authors (another glitch), so I have to go prospecting yet again.

I remember camellias in the Bette Davis movie, Now Voyager, and have always thought they are one of the most romantic flowers. Beautiful hub, and amazing photos!

billyaustindillon on April 09, 2011:

Just saw this on Twitter - Camellias are one of my favorite and you nailed how they can spruce up the garden with a little pizazz - only trouble I have ever had is in wet and overcast times - not really a problem in Houston though!

My favorites are the dark reds :) Awesome and beautiful this article Peggy.