Late winter is the season when camellias are at their best. While the early-blooming sasanquas have pretty much finished for the year, the shade-loving japonica camellias are at their peak and the large-flowered reticulatas are trying to prove they are the showiest of all. So, while camellias are top of mind, give some thought to how you are going to care for them for the rest of the year.
Camellias make their major spurt of growth after flowering, so it’s best to feed when the last flowers are coming to an end. Of course, most sasanquas stopped blooming weeks ago, but the end of winter is still the optimum time to give them a feed. Use a specific camellia food (such as Thrive Granular) or, better still, some Dynamic Lifter Advanced for Camellias, Azaleas & Rhododendrons. Potted camellias should be fed with a plant food that’s safe for pots. Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser would be a good choice.
Camellias have shallow root systems that can dry out readily during summer so, after fertilising, spread a layer of mulch around the base of the plant. Avoid direct contact with the stem of the plant.
Even if you never pruned your camellias they’d continue to grow perfectly happily, but there are times when the secateurs or clippers should come out. Sasanqua camellias are often used as a formal hedge or shaped as a topiary and an end-of-winter haircut will give them a fresh start for the season. Hedges will also need to be trimmed occasionally over the growing season to retain a neat outline. Japonica camellias can be pruned now to restrict their size or to thin crowded branches and open up the plant. Reticulata camellias are best left to develop their natural tree shape but under-pruning, removing lower branches to create a clear trunk, can sometimes improve their appearance.
Established camellias are remarkably drought tolerant but the plants will perform at their best if water stress is kept to a minimum. Mulching, as mentioned, will help, as will an application of Yates Waterwise Soil Wetter. Scrape away existing mulch, apply soil wetter and water well afterwards. Then move the mulch back into place.
Potted camellias will appreciate the addition of some Waterwise Water Storage Crystals in the root area. These will help hold extra moisture.
Watch out for sunburn. Even the sun-hardiest camellia can burn on an extra-hot day, which can lead to leaf fungal problems. Protect vulnerable plants with Yates DroughtShield.
Use Yates Scale Gun to treat scale pests and Yates Nature’s Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray to control the leaf-bronzing tea mite.