Camellia japonica, or Japanese camellia, one of the most popular varieties of camellia, makes an excellent choice for a home garden. There are, however, a few important things to keep in mind when planting a Japanese camellia in your yard.
Step 1 – Choose Location
Japanese camellia, a broadleaf evergreen shrub hardy in zones 7 to 9, is an excellent choice for shrub planting. Use as a single large specimen shrub or grow together to create a shrub border or privacy screen. Be sure to allow ample space for each shrub, as this variety can grow 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Japanese camellia likes sun to partial shade, so factor this into the decision of where to plant in the garden. In addition, ensure the area is protected from winter wind to avoid leaf scorch.
Step 2 – Soil and Water Requirements
Well drained soil is a must for the Japanese camellia. It should be moist and somewhat acidic, with a soil pH of 5.6 to 6.5. Amend the soil with compost. Remember that this camellia requires regular watering, but do not overwater.
Step 3 – Prepare Bed
If planting 2 or more Japanese camellias together, prepare a soil bed instead of digging individual holes. In either case, cultivate soil 8 to 10 inches deep with a hoe and rake or garden cultivator to encourage the camellia’s root growth and quick establishment. Since these are shallow-rooted plants, if the soil drainage is less than ideal, prepare a raised bed 10 to 12 inches above normal soil level.
Step 4 – Plant
Place Japanese camellias in holes that are no deeper but are 2 times wider than the root ball. Plant so that the root ball is level with the surface of the soil. Next, backfill with native soil and then firm soil around roots with hands. Water plants thoroughly to eliminate any air pockets. Add a 3-inch layer of organic mulch such as pine straw, pine bark or sawdust on the surface to keep the soil moist and to cut down on weeds.
Step 5 – Fertilization, Pruning and Winter Protection
Apply camellia fertilizer in March, May and July or March and July if using slow-release fertilizer. Many home gardeners seldom prune their Japanese camellias, but careful pruning should be done to control disease and pests or to shape the plants. In areas with light winter frost, covering the Japanese camellia with a cloth, plastic or paper (be sure not to touch the buds) will protect it. But nothing will protect the shrub against a severe winter freeze.
Japanese camellia, with its glossy, dark-green 4-inch long leaves and colorful blooms (singles, semi-doubles or doubles) in colors from white to pink to red make a dramatic statement in your yard. Give them the attention they deserve, and the rewards will be well worth all the trouble.