Massachusetts Camellia Society

About Camellias

Camellia Flower Forms

There are  six different flower forms that camellias can take. It is another quality that makes them more alluring and special.

SINGLE    5-8 petals in one row; petals loose, regular or irregular; prominent display of stamens & pistils

SEMI-DOUBLE   2 or more rows of large regular, irregular or loose outer petals, prominent stamen display; petals may overlap or be set in row

ANEMONE Form 1 or more rows of large outer petals lying flat or undulating; the center a convex mass of intermingled petaloids and stamens

PEONY Form   A deep rounded flower of either a Loose Peony Form consisting of loose petals, which may be irregular, and intermingled stamens, and sometimes intermingled petals, petaloids, and stamens in the center, or a Full Peony Form (domed mass of mixed irregular petals, petaloids, and stamens or irregular petals and petaloids never showing stamens

ROSE FORM DOUBLE Petals imbricated (layered like scales), or overlapped as in formal double, but showing stamens in a concave center when fully opened

FORMAL DOUBLE  many rows of flat, cupped or recurved petals overlapped in symmetrical form, usually with central cone of tightly furled petals, giving a hexagonal or perfect spiral appearance, never showing stamens.

Care of Camellia Plants

These gorgeous shrubs, clothed in lustrous, dark green foliage, are natives of Japan and China. The flowers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Their sizes range from miniature (up to 2_" across) to very large (over 5" across).  The bloom colors may be icy white or brilliant crimson, and all the pinks and corals in between.   There are thousands of varieties available to the gardener, which have been derived mainly from four species: C. japonica, C. sasanqua, C. reticulata, and C. saluenensis.


Camellias require a humid, temperate climate to thrive. In North America, Camellias are best grown from northern Washington, D.C. down along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts into Texas extending along the Pacific coast of California up through coastal British Columbia. Generally, the warmer the climate, the less direct sun is needed.

They are not hardy in New England, but they can be grown in greenhouses, protected porches, basements or garages with a mean temperature of 45_ to 55_ F. Camellias need high temperatures and long days in order to develop their flower buds. However, for them to open, cool temperatures and short days are required. They should be placed in filtered shade. There are areas on Cape Cod where, with protection from desiccating winds and strong sun, some camellias may thrive. Flower buds will most likely be damaged if they become frozen and thaw rapidly, which will most likely happen if they are grown facing east where the morning sun will quickly thaw them.

Camellias need moist, well-drained, crumbly soil that has been enhanced with organic matter and has a pH of about 6.0. Soil that has high alkalinity will eventually kill your Camellias, even if they are constantly treated. Soil should be firm but not packed down as their delicate, fibrous roots grow shallowly. Camellias that are grown in containers need a loose, slightly acidic potting soil. Soil consisting of two parts fertile loam or good garden soil, one part peat moss, and one part sand is recommended. A little dried cow manure and bone meal added is also beneficial. Fertilize from April through November, with a time released or other acid fertilizer. Over watering or letting the roots dry out will cause your Camellias to lose their flower buds. Pruning should be done right after flowering before new buds develop. It consists of removing dead twigs and branches that extend above the outline of the plant and thinning the centers of the shrubs to allow air to circulate.

You should check for pests frequently. Scale insects are the worst and cause the foliage to yellow and fall. Spider mites are troublesome in hot, dry weather and cause the foliage to turn bronze and speckled, especially along the main vein. Camellia canker and dieback is a fungal disease in hot, humid weather and can kill whole plants. Flower blight causes brown spots on the petals and deformed flowers, though it won't kill the shrub. If the soil doesn't have adequate drainage, the roots may rot.

THE SHORT STORY- Indoor Camellia care- Greenhouse/porch/basement or garage

Soil moist- but well drained- wood bark, pea stone, and crumbly organic matter;     Acid fertilizer- between April & November.

Exposure- Shaded, not direct sun. Best outdoors in summer, under a porch or tall tree, until first frost. Winter Indoors, night time temperatures can be 40 degrees. Daytime, warmer, to 65 or so.