Indoor Gardening: Planting a Camellia
If cared for properly, the camellia has been known to live for hundreds of years. With the right temperature and a slightly acidic soil, a camellia plant will thrive indoors. This shrub produces large flowers that bloom in shades from white to pink, red and yellow. If you already live in a humid, sunny environment, adding this plant to your garden will only involve a new pot and some well-draining acidic soil.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor Rachel Klein adds, "Picked cameilla flowers can float for days. This property makes for gorgeous centerpieces, and decorations for pools and fountains for special occasions."
Indoors, place a camellia in a location that receives bright indirect sunlight, such as next to a sunny window. If the summer is excessively hot, provide partial shading to keep the plant from drying out. During darker months, it may be necessary to use artificial light. The camellia needs 4 to 6 hours of indirect sunlight a day during the summer, 2 to 4 during the winter.
TIP: Rachel advises, "Be patient! The camellia can take up to 5 years to develop fully."
Camellias thrive in temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They need a cooler period closer to the 50 degree mark followed by warmer temperatures in order to produce buds. Pay attention to the temperatures in order to create theses buds. If there is not a cooler (dormant) period first, the buds will not likely form that year.
TIP: Rachel suggests, "If you live in a climate with warm summers, putting your camellia outside during the summer can encourage bigger and more beautiful blooms. Be sure to keep it in a shady spot and bring it back inside before first frost."
Use a peat-based potting soil to create a well-aerated and moisture-rich environment. The peat also helps to keep the acidity of the soil in the correct territory. Use distilled water or rainwater to help keep the acidity correct.
If your soil reaches above a 7.0, you will need to flush some of the acid out of the soil or add different nutrients to help counteract the acid. Be careful with acidic fertilizers, as these tend to have too much nitrogen. This will create a healthy plant, but might scare new buds and resulting flowers away.
Watering and Moisture
The camellia likes to be kept moist, but not left in standing water. During planting, place a layer of gravel or broken pottery on the bottom of your container to improve drainage. During dry times of the year, the plant will appreciate a daily light misting on its leaves and branches in the evening. Use distilled or rain water for best results. If the area you live in is dry year round, use a humidifier to help keep the moisture level ideal.
TIP: Rachel adds, "Otherwise, place the planter on a pan of pebbles that you keep moist, to increase the humidity around the plant."
Pruning is not absolutely necessary, but can be done right after the last blooms, usually in late fall or early winter. Occasional pruning can help to maintain a tree or bush shape. Cut branches at a 45 degree angle just above a node (the place where a leaf or branch is attached to the stem). Use sharp pruners to avoid tearing the stems. The camellia can grow up to 10 feet, so if you do not have high ceilings, pruning may be a must.
As your plant grows, you will have to move it to a larger pot. Even once it reaches full growth, plan on re-potting the camellia at least every 2 years. You will be able to create a perfect soil environment for your plant and make certain that all of the needed nutrients are being absorbed.
Feed every 2 weeks during the blooming season using a high-potassium liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Great organic fertilizers include fish emulsion and cottonseed meal.
TIP: Rachel says, "Grow your own tea plant! Camellia leaves can be steeped for tea!"