Tips For Propagating Camellias

Camellias may be propagated by rooting cuttings or by growing from seed. Neither method is particularly difficult, but both involve attention to detail. Here are some things to consider when propagating camellias for the home garden.

Taking Cuttings

One of the easiest and most common ways to propagate camellias is to root cuttings. This method will result in an exact duplicate of the plant. Here’s what to do:

  • The American Camellia Society recommends taking cuttings with 5 leaves, trimming off the lower leaves and leaving only 2 to 3 leaves at the top.
  • Best time to take cuttings is mid to late summer to ensure new growth has partially hardened. The growth will be a light brown at this point.
  • Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use, or root immediately.
  • Prepare rooting medium using a 50-50 mix of perlite or sand and peat moss (or pine bark or potting soil). Place the medium in individual pots or growing trays. Keep moist.
  • Using a sharp knife, make a tapered cut at the base of the cutting.
  • Dip cutting into rooting hormone, such as Rootone.
  • Use a pencil to make a hole in the rooting medium and gently place the cutting in the mix about 2 to 3 inches deep. Space cuttings for camellias 2 inches apart.
  • As for watering, make sure to keep cuttings moist but never wet.
  • Camellias require high humidity to root properly. Use a covering that doesn’t block light and also mist on a schedule. Bend wire coat hangers into shape and place in a pot or tray and cover with a plastic bag secured with a rubber band.
  • Keep camellias in an area that receives bright light but not direct sunlight.
  • Rooting takes 3 months to 1 year, depending on variety and growing conditions.

Seed Propagation

Patience is required to successfully grow camellias from seed, since they may take 2 to 7 years to produce blooms. In addition, the resulting plants may not produce flowers as good as those from the parent plant. Here are some tips:

  • Harvest ripe camellia seeds from mid-July through August.
  • Dip seeds in a fungicide solution of 1 tablespoon fungicide (such as Captan) per gallon of water.
  • Place seeds lightly in 3 to 4 inches of moist (not wet) spaghum peat moss in desired container (such as an aquarium, plastic bag or large wide-mouth jar) so seeds are slightly exposed.
  • Containers need to be covered, but not air-tight. Place under fluorescent light or in filtered daylight for 8 hours per day.
  • Keep moist, but not wet.
  • Maintain an average temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Check the seeds in about 2 weeks. When the tap root is 1 to 1-1/2 inches long, gently pinch off the end and place back into the medium. This forces the root to send out more shoots.
  • In a few weeks, when the seedlings have 3 to 4 leaves, transplant in 4 to 6 inch pots. Later, move to 1-gallon pots, using a mix of peat moss, compost, sand and top soil.