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March 24, 2018


Is it too late to prune my camellia?  I forget which one but as I remember from 21 years ago when it was planted it is called “Candle Wick”.  It blooms from November through January. It does not need a severe pruning, but is along a sidewalk and needs a little size control.


It is not too late. I would say based on your bloom time that you are growing a Sasanqua camellia.  While you often hear to prune immediately after bloom, sasanquas usually finish blooming in the winter when it is too cold to prune. I prune all my camellias (if needed) when I prune the azaleas--after the azaleas bloom. Camellias will begin to set flower buds in late summer so as long as you get the job done by June you are good to go.


March 10, 2018


I planted a Camilla bush two years ago. It hasn’t grown and only bloom once last year but only a few buds. Now tons of buds have been on it but it won’t bloom and is losing leaves and has brown spots. It gets lots of rain runoff from the roof, morning sun until about noon then shade and is on NE side of house. Should I move it? The next door neighbor’s bush is lush green with vibrant red flowers blooming. If I do move it what’s the best sun exposure? Thanks! So worried I’m going to lose it and it was $300! 

AnswerI think there may be something wrong with the site if the plant is not growing at all. I am also worried the spot may be too wet.  Camellias can tolerate some moisture but not standing water or waterlogged soils.  Dig the plant up now and inspect the roots.  Are they white and full and spreading out or are they brown and gummy and stunted?  Camellias like a rich, well-drained soil with full morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered light throughout the day.  It sound like your light exposure is perfect but I am not sure your plant is a happy camper.  If you paid that much for the plant, I assume it was quite large.  The larger the plant at transplant, the slower it takes them to get acclimated and begin to grow, so that can be another factor but I worry about the water run-off you mention. You can also take some pictures of the plant along with some leaves to your local county extension office for more diagnostics.



May 1, 2017

QuestionI have a large, old camellia that was planted as a screen for an air conditioner unit.  It has never been pruned and has reached the eaves of the house.  How much can I prune it without damaging the plant?.


AnswerI would try not to prune more than a third of the plant back if possible.  When pruning, don't just shear it at the same point.  Instead, individually remove branches so that the new growth will begin at different levels and give you a fuller outcome.  While we often say to prune as soon as the plant finishes blooming, with camellias that can still be during cold weather.  Wait and prune after all chances of frost have passed.  Fertilize after pruning.   Severe pruning shouldn’t hurt a broadleaf plant but it can be slow to recover.  The sooner you can prune in the spring, the quicker the plant will recover. 


February 18, 2017

QuestionI was wondering when is the appropriate time of year to plant a Camilla? I only have 1 of these winter blooming beauties, but would like more or any other winter blooming plant suggestions.


AnswerThe camellias have been and are gorgeous this year. There are two basic types that are most commonly sold in Arkansas nurseries. The Camellia sasanqua is hardy state-wide and blooms with smaller flowers in late fall and early winter. The Camellia japonica is hardy through ½ -3/4 of the state.  They are the ones that are beginning to bloom now. They have larger and showier flowers, but can be susceptible to a late frost.  Many nurseries carry the plants year-round, but probably the best availability of varieties is now.  The dormant season is a great time to plant larger trees and shrubs, but you could plant through the spring and again in the fall. I personally would avoid planting in the heat of summer since watering is much more critical then.   Camellias need a well-drained, acidic soil with morning sun and afternoon shade.


February 1, 2017


What is wrong with my camellias?  The upper surface of the leaves is turning yellow and there are these specks on the underside. It is blooming fine but I would hate to lose it.  What should I do about it?




Your camellias have a great case of camellia tea scale. These are the tiny white things on the back of the leaves. Scale insects attach themselves to the leaves or stems of plants and suck the sap out of the plant.  Heavy infestations can lead to plant decline and fewer blooms. That is what is causing the plant mottling.  Rake up any leaves that have fallen, but in March or April apply a systemic insecticide including Imidacloprid around the base of the plant.  It will move throughout the system of the plant and kill the insects.  Once they die, they will still be attached, but you should see no signs of spread and the plant should rebound.

September 24, 2016


My fall blooming camellia bush has a bunch of fruit-like growths on them.  I have never seen these before.  What are they?  



Camellia sasanqua flowers can set seeds if they get the right conditions, and our mild winter coupled with a mild growing season has allowed them to set more fruits than normal.  These small apple-looking fruits do contain seeds.  While it is possible to grow a camellia from seed, it will take a long time to get a flowering plant when grown by seed. 

 April 30, 2016


I have two large camellias; one on either side of my front door which are getting too big and threaten to totally cover the entrance.  I need advice about serious pruning; when, where, how much possible.  I don't want to harm them, they are beautiful bloomers in the late fall.  If severe pruning is not advised, what are the safe alternatives if any?


The normal recommendation is to try and remove no more than one third of the bush at one time.  However much you decide to take off, the pruning must be done soon.  For late winter/ spring blooming plants we recommend pruning by mid-June, so they can recover enough to set flower buds in late summer/ early fall.  If you prune heavily, the sooner you prune after flowering the better, which will allow for extra recovery time.  When you prune, I would also recommend pruning selective branches here and there, instead of an overall shearing of the bush.  Shearing tends to encourage all new growth at one point along the outer edge of the plant—selective branch pruning should result in a more natural looking plant with more foliage and flowers.   After pruning, fertilize with an azalea/camellia fertilizer and make sure you keep it watered when dry to encourage new growth.

 March 1, 2016


The camellias were the prettiest I have ever seen them this year.  My shrub that has only one or two blooms had I believe hundreds this year.  They are the type that are supposed to bloom in the fall, but they just lasted so long and were spectacular.  How can I treat them to make sure this happens again next season?  Should I prune them now or fertilize. If so what should I use and how often do I apply?


I agree with you. We had spectacular camellias this year, and we even had both types blooming together.  Normally the Camellia sasanqua blooms earliest and is over before Camellia japonica kicks in, but the mild weather we had in December had many early spring plants blooming early.  I think yours must be the sasanqua type since they are supposed to bloom in the fall/early winter time period.  They tend to bloom best if they get morning sun and afternoon shade.  They like ample moisture, and we had plenty last year except for in September, but by then, their flower buds were set.  So keep your plants watered this year if it is dry.  Fertilize now with an azalea type fertilizer which will help to keep the soil acidic.  One application a year when the plants begin to bloom should suffice.   

  December 12, 2015

QuestionThis camellia was a bush in 1972 when we moved here.  Through neglect, it became a mighty tall tree!  Should I prune it or just leave it alone. It is absolutely beautiful now.


 Camellia tree


I often am asked about pruning large blooming plants.  The assumption is that they need to be tamed or kept into a specific framework.  If the plants are impeding movement on a sidewalk or driveway, or covering up a window or door, then pruning is in order. If they are growing in an area that has plenty of room, then let them grow and enjoy them.  I agree your plant is stunning.  Tree-forming an overgrown specimen—which is what has happened with your camellia—removing the lower branches and exposing the main trunk helps your plant make a statement in the garden.  So enjoy!  If you have camellias that do need pruning, wait until winter is fully over before doing any pruning.  

 November 2014

Question I have two pink camellias that are always loaded with buds but always freeze before they bloom. They are up against the house on the east side. I can never get them to bloom before the fall freeze. Any ideas?


AnswerDo you know if they are sasanqua varieties or japonica varieties?  Sasanquas typically bloom in the fall and early winter, while the larger japonica types bloom in later winter and if they begin to show color, can be damaged by winter cold.  Last winter was really the first time we had any issues in recent years, but the sasanqua types would be hardier for you.  You have them in the best protected location. Covering only gives you a few degrees of protection. 

 December 2012

QuestionI need some advice on a situation with some Camellia bushes that were damaged by fire from a house that burned close to them in Eudora. They were burned on one side pretty badly and I pruned some of this damage off. As workers came in to clean up the site, they took it upon themselves to trim them severely.....these are 60-70 year old camellias and they are now about 3 feet in height. With winter approaching, what is your suggestion to salvage these lovely first thought is to cut them to the ground and put pine straw on top of them.....but don't know if that is the best solution....Please help.

AnswerI think they have been cut enough for now. I would put some extra mulch around them if the weather gets really cold this winter—because they are now much more exposed and more susceptible to winter damage. I have found camellias to be pretty tough plants—especially in south Arkansas. As old as they are, they have a well established root system and once we get back into a growing season, I think they will begin to grow. It will take time to get them to a decent size again, but be patient, water and lightly fertilize, and they should rebound.

August 2012

QuestionI have two large 15' camellias on the east side of my house. They were planted in 1968 and haven't been watered or fertilized for at least 6 years. They bloom profusely without fail. My question is for the first time I've seen some seed pods forming. I'm curious as to why the pods are forming on such an old shrub. Why now? Is it a portent of doom for the mother plant?

AnswerCamellias have the potential to set seeds every year. I think part of the reason we are seeing more this year, is that they bloomed so early, met with no late freezes and had ample time to set seeds before the heat hit. We often think of camellias as water needy plants, but I have found that they can be pretty resilient, once they are well established and in the right spot. Flower buds are set for next year’s blooms now.

January 2012

QuestionWinter Color 2012


AnswerSo far this winter has been an improvement over last year, with weather almost too mild at times. But our winter is far from over, so keep your fingers crossed. Typically when we think of garden color, we think spring and summer, but there are a number of plants that can add winter interest and color. From true flowering plants to colorful bark, leaves and berries, there are options for all gardens. Take inventory of your own garden, and if you need color, consider some new additions. Shrubs are the backbone of the landscape. While we do want evergreen shrubs to be the foundation of the landscape, deciduous plants can also add seasonality and rhythm to a garden. While green is of course a color, there are variegated plants and some that take on their own winter hue. Nandinas can be a nice green addition to the garden during the growing season, but they really shine in the winter landscape with red or burgundy foliage. Standard plants also have a nice berry display. Some folks dislike nandinas since they can spread by seed into wild areas, but they are a versatile plant, and usually pretty tough. Many female hollies are loaded with berries this year, and the fruit is a nice addition to color. The deciduous hollies are really showing off with berries on full display without being masked by foliage. But there are some plants that actually bloom in the cooler months. There are several species of camellias that are common throughout central and southern Arkansas, and with hardier introductions, now being planted even in the northern tier of the state. Camellia sasanquas are in full bloom now, and some of the Camellia japonica’s are beginning to bloom. There are other hybrids available as well. These plants do best in full morning sun, and afternoon shade. They like acidic soil conditions and even moisture in the summer—not tolerating heavy, wet soils very well. Flower colors run from pinks to reds and whites, with some bi-colors as well. There are several species of mahonia that shine in the shade garden. Oregon Grape Holly is a common name, but these plants are setting flowers now, which will be open in a few weeks. The fragrant yellow blossoms will be followed by robin’s egg blue fruits. A new introduction is the Soft Caress mahonia, which looks almost like a small palm plant. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is already blooming in many parts of the state. Often mistaken for forsythia, which won’t be in bloom for a month or so, winter jasmine is a low growing plant with cascading branches covered in bright yellow flowers. Even though it does lose most of its leaves in the fall, the branches stay green. It has started blooming a bit earlier than normal this year. Some less known shrubs for winter interest include wintersweet and winterhazel. Both of these shrubs bloom in the winter and are highly fragrant. Winter sweet, Chimonanthus praecox is related to our common sweet shrub (calycanthus) and has smaller, fragrant flowers and is the first to bloom in January. By February, the winterhazel, Corylopsis platypetala is blooming. This plant is in the witchhazel family and while it has small flowers they cascade together in a small cluster. Both plants will grow in partial shade, and while not too exciting the rest of the season, can give you great fragrance and interest in the winter garden. Another fragrant winter shrub is winter honeysuckle. Its tiny white flowers may not stop traffic, but it can add fragrance to your home and garden.        

November 2011

QuestionI have seen so many pretty camellias in bloom in the state and would like some for my garden in Independence County. Am I too far north for them to survive? If not, what variety do you recommend?


AnswerYou are too far north for the Camellia japonica to do well, but there are several selections of hybrid Camellia’s which have crosses between C. sasanqua and C. oleifera that can go as far north as Fayetteville. Polar Ice, Winter’s Rose, and Winter’s Charm are just three that have been released. They will bloom nicely every year in late fall through early winter.      

October 2010

QuestionI am having landscaping done on my property in Bentonville. We have picked out a Winter's Star Camellia. It has already formed fruit seed pods and I am wondering if it is a true Winter's Star? Is this likely something other than Winter's Star?

AnswerI would be very surprised if it already has bloomed. Seed pods are still on many camellias from last year’s flowers and the flower buds are set for this year. Winter Star is not a japonica type--they typically bloom in Feb-March time period and would not be as winter hardy. Parents of Winter Star are Camellia oleifera (the tea oil camellia) x Camellia hiemalis 'Showa-no-sakae'. There are quite a few of these cold tolerant camellias now that should do well in NW Arkansas. Even if they possibly had already bloomed (which I doubt), it would not have had time to set a seed pod.      

April 2010

QuestionIs it too late to prune Sasanqua? Mine bloomed until a few weeks ago. They are about 7' - 8' feet tall, and bare around the lower 2 to 3 feet. They are about 20 years old.


AnswerIt is definitely not too late to prune camellias. Most sasanqua camellias have finished blooming but the Japonica camellias are still blooming in many gardens. I have pruned a few limbs on mine and will finish up when I prune the azaleas. Camellias set flower buds in late summer, so you have ample time to prune and allow recovery time. Try to get it done by early May if possible.

April 2010

QuestionI have three Sasanqua camellia plants that are 5' to 6' that are located on the north side of our home. They have outgrown their space and need to be moved to the east side of the house. When would be the best time of year to move them, and what should I do to prepare the new planting area?


AnswerI would move them now. Try to get as much of a root ball as you can. Replant in a well drained location and plant at the depth they are currently growing, or slightly more shallow. Water and mulch. If you damage any branches during the move, now is an ideal time to prune them as well. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but if you can amend the soil with compost that would encourage root spread. Don't be alarmed if they look puny for a month or so after the move, but they should bounce back quickly.

May 2009

QuestionI have a large camellia bush (7ft) that I would like to move. Is this possible without damaging it? If so how far can I cut it back? It has totally blocked the front window in our den.


AnswerThe best time to have moved the camellia would have been in February or March, when it was dormant. The plant is in its active growing period now and will be stressed if you transplant. It can be done, but you will really need to keep up with watering all summer long. Don’t be surprised if it wilts badly for several weeks after transplanting. Camellias can stand heavy pruning periodically and still recover, but do so as soon as possible. They finished blooming over a month ago and you need to allow them time to recover before they set flower buds this fall. Our recommendation is not to prune off more than one third. One other possibility is to limb the plant up, making it more of an ornamental tree.

June 2008

QuestionWe have a camellia that is about seven feet tall, 20-25 years old. It is watered by our sprinkler system and given shrub food with some regularity. It does not get a lot of sun, but neither do the ginkgo, forsythia, etc. around it and, at least this year, the hydrangea next to it is blooming nicely. The camellia's leaves have for the most part turned brown and almost leathery. Is it just old, or would cutting it back help---if so, how much and what time of year? Thanks!

 AnswerYou are really a bit late in the season to be pruning a camellia. There really is not an age limit to the plant but do check around the base of it to make sure you haven’t been gradually burying it too deep by adding mulch each year and never removing any of the old. You may also want to have the soil tested to see if the pH is acidic enough. What color are your hydrangeas? If they are a deep blue, you should be ok, but if they are purple or pink, that could be a factor. If the plant still has not rebounded by next season, you can prune it back by up to one third, but do so in April or early May—as soon after it finishes blooming.

April 2010

QuestionI have three Sasanqua camellia plants that are 5' to 6' that are located on the north side of our home. They have outgrown their space and need to be moved to the east side of the house. When would be the best time of year to move them, and what should I do to prepare the new planting area?

 AnswerI would move them now. Try to get as much of a root ball as you can. Replant in a well drained location and plant at the depth they are currently growing, or slightly more shallow. Water and mulch. If you damage any branches during the move, now is an ideal time to prune them as well. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but if you can amend the soil with compost that would encourage root spread. Don't be alarmed if they look puny for a month or so after the move, but they should bounce back quickly.

March 2010

QuestionI have 7 large potted camellias of various varieties on my deck. During the cold weather the temperatures in Hot Springs Village reached 8 degrees F. Unfortunately, we were out of town and I was not here to cover these plants. Three of my potted camellias are now looking very stressed with leaves sagging badly. Is there anything that I can do to help these plants survive? Should I remove buds, fertilize early or any other measures?

 AnswerLet’s just hope that we are done with freezing temperatures now! You can start to cut them back if you want, or wait a few more weeks for the weather to warm up a bit. Then start pruning back to green wood. Some camellias in the ground had a little winter damage, so in elevated containers it made them more susceptible to cold. I only hope that the roots didn’t freeze which could lead to the death of the plants. Wait and see what happens when they begin to grow. Then fertilize lightly with an azalea fertilizer and pamper them this growing season.

December 2009

QuestionMy sister has a beautiful camellia bush that is about 10 to 12 tall with pink blooms. She is always bringing me flowers from it. How can I get a start of it? I have tried before but I am not too good with flowers


AnswerCamellia’s can be propagated from cuttings, layering and seed. This past year they set a copious amount of seed pods which look like small crabapples. The pods pop open to expose the seeds, which can be planted immediately or if stored, should be soaked in warm water before sowing. Layering is one of the easiest methods of propagation and simply lets you take a low growing branch which you then layer it in and out of the soil. Where the stem is underground (weighted down with a rock or brick) it will put out roots. Once rooted, you can cut it off and move it. Cuttings are best taken from May through September, but have been known to root in other months as well. The key to success with camellias is to give them filtered sunlight or morning sun, a well drained soil that is acidic with organic matter mixed in. Water when dry.

September 2007

QuestionWe were trimming crepe myrtles-the correct way-and I left to go inside. When arriving back on the scene, my help had decided to trim seven of my beautiful 25 year old sasanqua camellias like the crepe myrtles. They are supposed to look like large azaleas, all clustered together. Now they are 6 foot trees. Will they come out if I cut them off to about 3 or 4 feet? Any suggestions?

 AnswerWow! The plants will eventually grow back if pruned hard, but wait to do so until next spring. Enjoy whatever flowers they left after the incorrect pruning job--camellias have their flower buds set now. Then in March or April, prune as needed. Follow up with azalea fertilizer and keep them watered, and they should fill back in. It may take a season or two. Pruning them hard now would make recovery even slower, and expose them to possible winter damage. I think I would find new help!

August 2006

QuestionI have recently purchased my first home which is adorned with two tall camellias and five smaller ones. The two larger ones appear to have been planted with the home (tall tree, trunk with foliage at the top). I have 2 questions for you: I have trouble with aphids, I am told. The underneath of the leaf is covered with small little things; the leaves never get spotted but do turn brown and drop. I have treated with chemicals purchased and home remedies but can not get them under control. Secondly, how do you prune, or do you? I would like to cut the larger trees back and I am afraid they won't leaf out.

AnswerI do not think you have aphids. I think you have tea scale. Scale insects often congregate on the backs of the leaves and the stems. You never see them move, because once they attach they form an outer coating which protects the mother insect. She lays eggs and the tiny insects that hatch crawl out, but are not visible with the naked eye. You need to use a systemic insecticide to control them. Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide or Di-syston used in March or April will work well. This fall when it cools off you could use dormant oil—but you must get thorough coverage. Do not prune any more this season. The flower buds should be set now for next winters or springs display. The time to prune camellias is as soon after flowering if they are spring bloomers or in late spring if they are fall and winter bloomers. Pruning them in the spring will allow ample time for recovery of foliage before they begin to set flower buds in late summer. Never prune a camellia past June.

March 2006

QuestionI need some pruning advice please? I recently bought a house and all the plants are very overgrown. I am not sure how much to cut them back. For instance, there are two very large Camellias’ in the front. They are so big that they are covering up half of the kitchen window. I am not sure how big they are supposed to be but the trunk or stalk of the plants are tall enough that I will have to cut the majority of leaves and branches off to get them to a reasonable size. Does that make sense? Do you know how tall they are supposed to be? Also, I'm not sure how much to cut back my azaleas. I know I am to wait until they have finished blooming but when it is time; can I cut them way back too?

 AnswerCamellias can grow quite large, depending on the variety. It would have been preferable to have them planted in a location where they could be allowed to grow to their full capacity, but unfortunately, that isn't the case here. You can prune them back to bare branches, and they will sprout back, but it will take awhile. It is best if you can limit pruning to no more than one third of the plants size each season, but an occasional hard pruning job can be done. Broadleaf plants have dormant buds on the old wood, which will sprout out after pruning. It won't look pretty for awhile as it recovers. For your azaleas, prune as soon after flowering as possible. For both plants, it is best not to shear them but to selectively thin branches to get a more fully leafed out plant profile.

April 2005

QuestionI have a problem with my 18 year old camellia tree. Usually it has red blossoms in the spring. This year it looks sick and the few blossoms are far from their normal beauty. There is a white covering on the leaves which is probably some sort of disease. I would appreciate any suggestion you have for treating this problem.

AnswerI do not think you have a disease but an insect problem. I have seen an abundance of scale this year on everything from hollies to camellias. Scale insects can vary in size from a half inch to the size of a pinhead. On camellias, the most common scale is called tea scale. These insects attach themselves to the leaves and suck the sap out. As they multiply, it can severely impact the plant. Each female deposits from 10 to 15 eggs under the scale shell. They hatch in 7 to 21 days, depending on the weather. The flat, yellow crawlers migrate to the newer growth on the plant and, in 2 or 3 days, attach themselves. At first they secrete thin, white coverings, but shortly afterward they produce great quantities of white threads. As the population builds up, the undersides of the leaves may be covered with this cottony secretion. From 41 to 65 days after hatching, female scales begin to lay eggs. The life cycle is usually completed in 60 to 70 days. The hatching of tea scale nymphs occurs throughout the year, although it is less frequent in cold than in warm weather. If left unchecked, they can build up quite quickly. Use a systemic insecticide such as Di-syston, Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide, or try spraying with Orthene. Contact sprays are difficult to control these insects since we have such a heavy network of leaves, and the insects do most of their feeding on the underside of leaves.

March 2006

QuestionWhen should I move a 5 foot camellia which is blooming beautifully right now?


AnswerAllow your camellia to finish blooming before you attempt to move it, otherwise you will lose many of the blooms. When the bloom season ends, move it as soon as possible. You will probably see some wilting for a few weeks after moving due to the shock of transplant, but the key is to plant it in a well amended site with good drainage at the same depth or slightly shallower than it is currently growing. Water and mulch for this season and it should be fine. Avoid any fertilization in the planting hole.


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