Camellia - Camellia
General information:The most famous member of the Camellia family
is C. sinensis, the plant from which we get tea. Tea can be made from
other Camellia species, but its flavor is not as desirable. But these
other Camellias make showy bonsai, with beautiful flowers and shiny
evergreen leaves. They can be grown outdoors in warm climates, and are
often grown as an indoor bonsai when they cannot be kept otherwise. Most
Camellias flower from fall through early spring.
When flower buds begin to appear, they are delicate.
They may fall off if the plant is moved, or if there is too great a
variation in temperature or light.
Lighting: Partial shade
to full sun.
Temperature: Zone hardy
to zones 8 or 9, depending on species. Never below 10F. Can be grown
sucessfully indoors, but needs cool nights (between 40-60F, but 50-59F is
best) in winter. Likes ventilation, but should be kept sheltered from
Watering: Moderate, but
as the root hairs are very fine, the plant CAN NOT be allowed to dry
completely. Increase watering during active growth, and when the plant is
in bloom. It is best to use decalcified (soft) water if possible. Likes an
occasional misting, but do not mist while in bloom or the flowers will
Feeding: Every 2-3
weeks, spring-autumn. Use a fertilizer such as Miracid, formulated for
acid-loving plants, at half- strength. Do not fertilize while the plant is
in bloom. The plant may also benefit from administering chelated iron 2-3
times a year.
Pruning and wiring:
Wire from late spring to autumn, taking care to protect the delicate bark
and branches. Do not wire while the plant is setting buds, and wire only
lignified shoots. Young plants should be pruned after the shoots have
developed 4-6 leaves, trimmimg back to 2-3 to establish branching. Pruning
of established bonsai is best done following flowering, pruning only once
and then allowing new shoots to set buds.
Propagation: By seed,
soaking in warm water, for 24 hours, and then removing the outer casing.
Fast germinating. Also hardwood cuttings can be taken from winter-summer,
although rooting is slow and difficult. The use of rooting hormone and
bottom heat of 72F is recommended. Air-layering is possible.
Repotting: Every 2-4
years in late winter or spring, following blooming. Likes acidic, humus
rich soil. The roots are superficial and fine, so drastic root pruning is
not recommended, and it is best if only 10% of the roots are
Pests and diseases:
Camellia is vulnerable to aphids, red spider mites sooty mold, weevils and
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Camellia cuspidata - Reputed to be somewhat more
hardy than the other members of the species, this plant has abundant
small white flowers.
- Camellia japonica: camellia, common camellia - This
is the most widely grown species. Although best known as a shrub, it can
grow into a tree over 30 feet tall. It has oval leaves up to 4 inches,
and most generally grows in zones 7-9 although some cultivars have been
grown as far north as southern New York. It is best known for its
spectacular blooms, which occur in late winter or early spring, and can
be white, pink or red. There are numerous cultivars, generally selected
for their various flowers.
- Camellia maliflora - A small flowered
- Camellia reticulata - A small-leaved,
shade-tolerant Camellia. It is hardy to zone 9. The white, pink or red
flowers can be found both single and double. Agressive pruning is needed
to promote branching.
- Camellia sasanqua: Sasanqua camellia - Smaller than
japonica, this Camellia has two inch leaves and flowers, and grows only
to 12 feet. Like C. japonica, it is hardy in zones 7-9, and has many
- Camellia sinensis: tea, tea plant, tea bush - A
white flowered variety, its small leaves and flowers make it better
proportioned for bonsai than other Camellia species.
- Camellia taliensis
- Camellia tsaii - another small flowered
- Camellia vernalis: Vernalis camellia
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