American Camellia Society Camellia Growing Tips & Culture
American Camellia Society The Garden Report: Questions & Answers
Norfolk Botanical Garden Hofheimer Camellia Garden


Pruning: Pruning camellias has not always been a common practice among camellia growers. In the past, plants had more or less been allowed to grow. Pruning camellias, however, can benefit both the plant and the flowers it produces.

Pruning can be done for the purposes of controlling insects and diseases. This type of pruning involves removing small branches and twigs that occur on limbs in the interior of the plant. The leaves of the small branches are a haven for scale and other pests. Thinning out of the growth allows for more efficient spray coverage. In addition, air circulation is greatly improved, which also helps prevent pests.

The best blooms are usually produced on vigorous plants. As plants get large, there are more growing points and a larger number of flower buds are set per plant. The amount of shoot growth is reduced and the individual flowers tend to be smaller.

Pruning of camellias should be done after blooming and before new growth begins. Pruning may be continued throughout the year in moderation, however, all pruning done after June will be removing flower buds for the upcoming season. A pocket knife, pruning shears, loppers, and a small pruning saw - all sharp and in good condition - are essential tools. Good sanitation is important. Wash or dip the tools in a mixture of one part Clorox to nine parts water, or use a fungicide/water solution between cuts. Do not lay the tools on the ground since this can spread harmful organisms to the cut surface of the plant. It is a good idea to give the plant a protective spray of a fungicide following pruning to prevent the dieback fungus from entering the wounds.

To prune properly, make the cut next to the trunk, do not leave stumps. Remove weak twigs that have only one weak terminal bud and no lateral shoot buds. Vigorous shoots will have one to three well-developed terminal leaf buds and lateral ones on the side. As a general rule, cut out branches that tend to grow inward, for they will certainly be shaded out in later years. At the very least, remove all dead and dying twigs.

Drastic pruning may be necessary to restore an old camellia to vigorous growth or to reduce it to a size that can be managed. To prune an old camellia, cut back each branch to a vigorous shoot, leaving it to grow. If no good shoots can be found, remove a large portion of the poor branches and wait to see which parts will put out new growth.

When transplanting camellias, 1/3 to 1/2 of the bush should be removed. The actual amount to removed should be in proportion to the amount of root loss during transplanting. This will restore balance to the plant since some roots are usually lost by being cut off or injured in transplanting.

Disbudding: Disbudding accomplishes two things: it concentrates the plant's energy on the development of fewer flowers, and it regulates the position of the blooms on the branch so that each may open unhindered.

Some camellias have a tendency to concentrate their bud set on the terminals of the branches instead of distributing them fairly evenly. In some cases this results in a mass of buds at the end of the twig and necessitates drastic action. It is a fairly common mistake to start disbudding too early in the season, which simply results in another crop of buds. Disbudding may be practiced from September to November. A plant with fewer flower buds will have a tendency to produce later flowers.

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