How To Plant A Camellia Shrub

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This article provides instructions for how to plant a Camellia
by Brett · All Zones · Planting · 0 Comments · October 06, 2015 · 11,977 views

Camellias are easy-to-grow provided they are planted right and in the right spot. Below are general guidelines for planting Camellias in various soil types ranging from clay, loam, sandy or silty.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...

Soil Type
Camellias prefer a soil that is humusy or rich in organic matter. Find instructions for amending certain types of soil in the planting instructions below.

Soil Drainage
Camellias must have a well-drained moist soil. Constantly soggy or wet soil can and most often will cause root rot and other harmful plant diseases.

TIP: Before You Plant. If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your camellias, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep where you intend to plant a camellia. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and could be a caution you might need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.

Soil pH
Camellias thrive in an acid soil with a pH between 5.0 to 6.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or suspect your soil is alkaline, it's a good idea to test the pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe or soil test kit. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions. To raise the pH (decrease acidity) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil.

Learn More: What is Soil pH and How To Adjust It?

Sun or Shade?
In general, camellias grow and bloom better in partial shade, with some shelter from hot afternoon sun. Morning sun with afternoon shade or filtered sunlight is perfect. All-day filtered sun is fine.

Camellia Planting Instructions

(Scroll down to see planting instructions for containers and pots)

Step 1
Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.

Step 2
Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to mix in a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting camellias in heavy, dense clay or poor soil it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter, such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the clay soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment, though some composted organic matter might be beneficial.

Step 3
To remove your camellia from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and gently lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can gently spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.

Step 4
If you are planting in well-drained soil set your camellia in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level, to allow for settling. If your soil is moderately drained (holds water for an extended period after rainfall or irrigation) the top of the root ball should be 2 to 3 inches above ground level. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.

NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) either create a mound above ground level to plant your camellia in or consider planting another plant species tolerant of wet soils.

Step 5
After setting your camellia in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting your camellia higher than ground level taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level, as shown in the planting diagram above. To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.

Step 6 (Optional)
When planting a shrub that prefers a well-drained but moist soil in an area that you won't be able to water easily, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a couple growing seasons.

Step 7
Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball. You can also water with a solution of Root Stimulator for an extra boost to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vogorous plants.

Step 8
Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area to conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your azaleas will appreciate.


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