Container Camellias

Camellias can be successfully grown in pots and other outdoor containers for decades, requiring just a little bit of extra attention.

The Basics

Pay special attention to your soil.  Camellias thrive in well-draining soil that is rich in organic nutrients. In our experience, commercial potting soils tend not to drain well enough, though they can easily be amended with sand, perlite, or vermiculite.  Here at the Nursery, we use a simple mixture of aged pine bark chips and compost.

When choosing a container, opt for one that has excellent drainage and is only a few inches larger than the existing pot.  This will help prevent soggy, waterlogged root systems.  Regularly checking the soil,  especially during the summer months, will be crucial.  When the top 1/4" to 1/2" of the soil is dry, it's time to make it rain.

Slow-release fertilizers are a container plant's best friend.  We recommend a single application early in the spring.  This allows for plenty of new growth during the season, but leaves ample time for hardening off before winter weather strikes.

Overwintering Outdoors

No matter where you live, don't forget to regularly check your plant's soil and water if necessary!

If you live in Zone 8b or 9, where temperatures do not remain at or below freezing for long periods of time, your plants will not require a great deal of extra effort in the fall. 

Those of us gardening farther north, however, will need to take steps to ensure that the soil and root systems are protected from freezing solid.  Dry leaves and pine straw provide excellent insulation; mound them around and over top, fully covering the container and soil.

If an extended period of extreme cold is expected, you can further protect the plant by creating a burlap or canvas fence around it, and filling the space with leaves.  Make sure to uncover the plant itself as soon as temperatures return to normal, though the pot should remain covered until spring.

Overwintering Indoors

As a rule, we do not recommend growing Camellias indoors- our homes are often too warm, too dry, and too dark for them to thrive. Like many plants, winter dormancy is vital to a Camellia's health and happiness!  If your plants must overwinter indoors, you will need to pay close attention to temperature, light, and humidity.

Make sure your plant has a cool space to rest - less than 60°F.  Even during dormancy, Camellias require bright, filtered light.  South facing windows are best, but any that receives some direct sun will be adequate.  Artificial, full-spectrum plant lights can also be used, if necessary.  Since the heat in our homes tends to dry the air, check the soil's moisture level frequently, and water as needed.

When moving your plant(s) back outdoors in the spring, be careful not to rush things.  Place plants in the shade at first and gradually expose them to more sunlight over time.  This is true for all plants- not just Camellias! This process allows the plant to slowly re-acclimate to the outdoors, reducing stress and the risk of sunburn.