Before you start to grow and care for your own camellia plant, you should know a little about their background and read through these helpful tips to ensure healthy, beautiful blossoms. Camellias were imported into Europe from China during the eighteenth century. Initially, European traders brought camellias over when they were trying to break the monopoly the Chinese had on tea by buying young tea plants. Chinese nurserymen sold the European merchants the very similar but nonpotable young camellias as a way to prevent the Europeans from growing their own tea. Eventually, the Europeans overcame their disappointment and grew to love winter-blooming camellias, eventually during the Victorian period associating them with perfect loveliness.
Thanks to advancements in horticulture, there are now two types of camellias: hardy camellias and non-hardy camellias. If you live in the South, in warm temperatures, you can grow either type of camellia. If you live in the North or anywhere cool, you are pretty much limited to hardy camellias unless you want to bring your plants in during the winter.
If you live down South, your evergreen camellias will brighten your garden with a bevy of pink, white or red blooms every winter. Non-hardy camellias grown up North will bloom in spring and fall. Both types of camellias are shrubs and can possibly grow 30 feet high and spread 30 feet as well. Camellias are a shade-loving plant and won't tolerate intense sunlight. They do require a little bit of sun, preferably in the morning. Camellias are a good choice to plant at the side of your house, where they will get sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. You can also plant them at the foot of a deep rooted tree, where they will get a little bit of dappled sunlight through the branches.
Camellias have extremely shallow root systems. You can injure or kill your camellia by cultivating around the roots. Mulching is a must. It will control weeds, keep your soil cool and moist in the summer, and warm in the winter. It will also help to disperse dry fertilizer. Don't try to plant any ground cover around your camellias. Plant your camellias in acidic, fast draining soil during their dormant season in October. Dig a hole one and a half times the depth of the root ball and twice the diameter. Pack a support cone of natural soil in the bottom of the hole so that the root ball extends two inches above ground level. This will help with your camellia roots' high oxygen requirements. When the plant is in place, fill in the space around it with a loose mix of compost and soil. Use the leftover soil to build a watering basin.
Most gardeners who have a problem with their camellias don't understand the plant's needs. They are light feeders and should never be fertilized when they are thirsty. Water your plants thoroughly the day before you fertilize, unless it is extremely hot out in which case they should not be fertilized at all. Allow the soil to drain completely and dry between waterings.
Make sure to prune your camellia to create spaces for the blooms to open and to develop branches that can support the weight of your blooms. Remove inside and cross branches and thin out remaining branches for the best results.