The Camellia Club of Mobile

Club History

Meeting Schedule 2011-2012

Regional Events


Where to Buy the Best Camellias


Camellia Culture

Join Us




by Walter Creighton

There are three main things for camellia culture in the springtime:

1. Spraying

2. Pruning

3. Fertilizing

In this article more time will be spent on fertilizing than on spraying and pruning.


Use oilicide for scale - follow directions on the label.

Use Orthene or Isotox for aphids and other pests.

Dieback is caused by a fungus that invades the plant through wounds and leaf nodes. There is no fungicide recommended for this disease as yet, but Bayleton has been somewhat effective.


Basically there are three ways to prune camellias. Japonicas may be pruned severely or to the shape that you desire.

(a). Prune dead wood and spindly growth first.

(b). Shape the plant into shape desired.

(c). Thin out center of plant in order for air to circulate through plant and spray to cover center part of



There are many different fertilizing programs that people use. If you have one that pleases you, stick with it.

Plant Requirements:

This discussion will be on plants in the ground, rather than in pots, since most people have plants in their yard.

If you want healthy plants with good flower size and color, you must have some knowledge and use care in fertilizing your plants.

Fertilizing can be done in two ways; by foliar feeding and root feeding. I use root feeding exclusively. Good healthy plants must have water, oxygen and carbon in various forms. The plant’s greatest need is the three

basic elements of commercial fertilizer. These are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

In addition to these basic elements the minor elements are necessary. The minor (trace) elements needed are calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, sulphur, manganese and boron. Most of these are present in the soil, but occasionally need to be supplemented. It makes no difference if these elements are present in organic or inorganic fertilizer. The plant breaks down compounds into the elements before using them.

Soil bacteria play a huge role in breaking down fertilizer for the roots to take up these nutrients. Nitrate bacteria break nitrates into nitrites.

The soil must have the proper pH range in order for the needed elements to be taken up by the plant. The ideal pH range is 6.4 to 6.8. In order to obtain this range lime (CaCO3) may be used to increase the pH, or superphosphates may be added to the soil to decrease the pH reading . Different pH levels are required for each element breakdown by the plant. (see table below).

N2 - pH 5.5 - 9.0

K - pH 5.5 - 9.0

P - pH 5.9 - 7.0

Ca - pH 6.1 - 8.5

Mag - pH 4.0 - 5.2

Zinc - pH 5.1 - 7.0

Cu - pH 5.1 - 7.0

Water is an absolute necessity for these elements to be used by the plant.


As mentioned earlier, there are organic and inorganic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizer contains three basic elements: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You will see these elements written on each bag in the form of 4-12-12, 13-13-13, 8-8-8, 6-5-12, etc. These fertilizers are made to breakdown in varying degrees. Sta-green is a quick release fertilizer containing the basic elements and minors. Nutricote and Osmocote are slow release fertilizers. They are coated with a substance that breaks down with water over a period of time. These are generally called 9-month fertilizers. Some may last up to 12 months. Sta-green is a 2 -3 month fertilizer. The slow releasefertilizer, due to slow breakdown, will not burn plants as fast as the quick release ones. They will also be washed away over the longer period if a lot of heavy rain occurs. If you use slow release be sure to mulch real well.

Examples of organic fertilizers are: cottonseed meal, manure, sludge, leaf mold, etc. It is generally safe to use these because of the very slow breakdown.

If you use the inorganic fertilizer, read the label on the bag to determine the presence of minor elements. Some of these commercial fertilizers do contain the minors.


When plants become stressed or sick they show symptoms. In order to observe these you must look closely at your plants each day. The following are some symptoms of sick plants:

Nitrogen weak, spindly growth

Phosphorus weak, spindly, short growth

Calcium smaller growth tips and leaves look burnt

Manganese orange/yellow leaves

Zinc clear necrotic spots on leaves

Iron white on young foliage

Boron orange/yellow leaves

Sulphur light yellow foliage

Copper white mottling on young foliage

A soil sample analysis by a source available to you will tell you a lot about your soil deficiencies.

Application of Fertilizer:

Springtime is the correct time to apply the first application of fertilizer to your plants. Using quick release fertilizer, you should apply about three times per year.

In the springtime (March) apply a high nitrogen fertilizer with trace elements.

In summertime (June) apply another application of same fertilizer.

In fall (September) apply low nitrogen fertilizer.

Do not apply too heavily at one time. It is better to apply a moderate amount, but do it on three occasions. The amount ot use depends on the size of the plant. In pots, one tablespoon per gallon is recommended. So use accordingly to plants in the ground. Put a good layer of mulch down to keep fertilizer from washing away. Moderate size plants require about a good double handful. Camellias root very shallow, so apply fertilizer all around the plant and out some from the trunk.

If you apply a 9 or 12 month slow release fertilizer, apply only one time in the spring.

CAUTION: if you apply too much fertilizer a toxic salt develops around the roots and the plant will show leaf burn. It is better to apply too little than too much.

CAUTION: Do not use high nitrogen fertilizer in the fall of the year because new growth will be promoted and an early front or freeze will kill the new growth that occurs. The growth should be hardened off in the fall and buds set for the following season. The feeding at that time of year is for flower quality , rather than plant growth.

Remember - plants can way over eat, just like people, and can suffer the consequences.

Page last modified 08/02/2012