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By Lelly

United Kingdom Gb

I have a camellia that has never flowered. What am I doing wrong?



As long as they are planted in acid soil, camellias are not difficult to grow, and will even thrive in tricky semi-shaded areas, needing only minimal care once established. Most grow into large shrubs or small trees, but are extremely versatile and can be used as wall shrubs, hedges or superb container specimens.

Camellias need shelter if they are to thrive. An area in dappled shade under trees is ideal, but they will tolerate a more open position if shaded for part of the day. A west-facing aspect is perfect as strong early morning sun on frosted flower buds can cause them to thaw too quickly and drop off. In very exposed gardens, camellias are best fan-trained on a west-facing wall.

Generally, they prefer neutral or acid soil, although camellias will tolerate slightly limey soil, if it is well drained and fertile. Prepare the soil before planting by adding leaf compost and manure.

Container cultivation is the answer for gardeners with chalky soils, since a bag of ericaceous compost will satisfy their needs for acidic growing conditions.

Although they will flower without regular pruning, camellias can outgrow their allotted space unless kept in check. This is best done after flowering but before new growth begins.

Deadheading should be done as the petals fade in order to tidy up the plant and prevent energy being wasted on setting seed.

Camellias can suffer from scale insects, which look like tiny brown limpets clinging on to the stems and underside of the leaves. In addition to sucking the sap, they secrete honeydew on the leaf surface that becomes colonised by black sooty mould. Protect from aphids by washing them off or use a chemical spray.

Yellow leaves are a common problem with camellias and usually indicate nutrient deficiency. The solution is to apply a balanced liquid fertiliser in spring and autumn.

A type of virus sometimes causes yellow mottling or almost white leaves. This usually occurs on just a few branches and so can be cut out. Annually applied mulch of compost or manure around the root area is beneficial, especially in sandy soils. Avoid spent-mushroom compost as it contains lime.

Camellias, whether in the ground or container, need careful watering in the summer months. A dry spell in summer is the most common cause of winter bud drop.

15 Jul, 2008


My established camellias carried very few flowers last year after the hot, dry summer of 2006. Make sure your camellia does not go short of water and you should see flower buds forming

15 Jul, 2008

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