By: Raffaele Di Lallo, Author and founder of Ohio Tropics houseplant care blog
Camellias are stunning plants that are normally grown outdoors, but you can grow camellias indoors if you can give them the proper conditions. Let’s take a look at the needs of camellias inside the home.
One crucial part of indoor camellia care is the appropriate temperature. These plants need lower temperatures in order to bloom. Typically, temperatures below 60 degrees F. (16 C.) work beautifully. Just take care that temperatures stay above freezing.
Give your camellia houseplant a nice bright window indoors. A southern exposure window would work very well. Wherever you place your plant, be sure that it receives at least a few hours of direct sun for best growth and flowering. If you don’t have a sunny window, you can easily grow your plant under an artificial full spectrum light.
Watering and potting mixes require special attention. A good mix for camellias inside includes 80 percent ground aged bark with 10 percent coarse sand and 10 percent peat moss. Avoid commercial mixes because these tend not to drain freely enough for these plants. Camellias like to stay moist but not wet, as this can cause root rot to occur. Keeping a smaller pot size will help prevent the potting mix from staying too wet. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid your plant from drying out completely, especially when flower buds appear.
There is much to know about fertilizing your camellia houseplant. Camellias are not heavy feeders, so you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. Be sure not to fertilize during the dormant period, which is when they are budding and blooming. You should fertilize the rest of the year though. Avoid general garden fertilizers and be sure to use ones formulated specifically for camellias or azaleas. You can also use cottonseed meal. If your plant’s soil is dry, make sure to water the day before you fertilize as you can damage the plant’s surface roots if you fertilize when dry.
Growing camellias inside year-round can be challenging because most homes are too warm, too dark, and have too low humidity for these plants to thrive. If you live in an area with cold winters and your camellias cannot survive outdoors, you can try and overwinter them indoors but only if you follow all the indoor camellia care details above.
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Camellias can be successfully grown in pots and other outdoor containers for decades, requiring just a little bit of extra attention.
Pay special attention to your soil. Camellias thrive in well-draining soil that is rich in organic nutrients. In our experience, commercial potting soils tend not to drain well enough, though they can easily be amended with sand, perlite, or vermiculite. Here at the Nursery, we use a simple mixture of aged pine bark chips and compost.
When choosing a container, opt for one that has excellent drainage and is only a few inches larger than the existing pot. This will help prevent soggy, waterlogged root systems. Regularly checking the soil, especially during the summer months, will be crucial. When the top 1/4" to 1/2" of the soil is dry, it's time to make it rain.
Slow-release fertilizers are a container plant's best friend. We recommend a single application early in the spring. This allows for plenty of new growth during the season, but leaves ample time for hardening off before winter weather strikes.
No matter where you live, don't forget to regularly check your plant's soil and water if necessary!
If you live in Zone 8b or 9, where temperatures do not remain at or below freezing for long periods of time, your plants will not require a great deal of extra effort in the fall.
Those of us gardening farther north, however, will need to take steps to ensure that the soil and root systems are protected from freezing solid. Dry leaves and pine straw provide excellent insulation mound them around and over top, fully covering the container and soil.
If an extended period of extreme cold is expected, you can further protect the plant by creating a burlap or canvas fence around it, and filling the space with leaves. Make sure to uncover the plant itself as soon as temperatures return to normal, though the pot should remain covered until spring.
As a rule, we do not recommend growing Camellias indoors- our homes are often too warm, too dry, and too dark for them to thrive. Like many plants, winter dormancy is vital to a Camellia's health and happiness! If your plants must overwinter indoors, you will need to pay close attention to temperature, light, and humidity.
Make sure your plant has a cool space to rest - less than 60°F. Even during dormancy, Camellias require bright, filtered light. South facing windows are best, but any that receives some direct sun will be adequate. Artificial, full-spectrum plant lights can also be used, if necessary. Since the heat in our homes tends to dry the air, check the soil's moisture level frequently, and water as needed.
When moving your plant(s) back outdoors in the spring, be careful not to rush things. Place plants in the shade at first and gradually expose them to more sunlight over time. This is true for all plants- not just Camellias! This process allows the plant to slowly re-acclimate to the outdoors, reducing stress and the risk of sunburn.
Tea (Camellia sinensis) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub from China that grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. The young green leaves of the shrub can be used to make tea. Camellia sinensis has white flowers with yellow stamens that bloom in late fall. Outdoors the shrub can grow up to 15 feet tall, but grown indoors in a container it usually reaches only about 6 feet in height.
Choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes that is about twice the size of the root ball of the plant. Good drainage is essential, as the tea plant does not tolerate water-logged soil.
Fill the bottom third of the container with a well-draining acidic potting soil. Set the plant in the center of the pot and fill in around the roots with soil. Leave the crown of the plant showing above the top of the soil.
Set the tea plant in a spot with bright, indirect light and a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. To get the plant to bloom, reduce the temperature to 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit after buds appear in the winter.
Allow the top 2 to 4 inches of soil to dry between waterings. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely. Water until the water runs out the drainage holes. Let the soil drain and do not let the pot sit in water.
Fertilize the shrub during the active growing season, usually from spring through the fall. Apply an acidic plant fertilizer every three weeks. Dilute the fertilizer to half the strength of the manufacturer's suggested rates.
Prune the camellia sinensis yearly after the bloom period. Remove any dead or damaged stems with pruning shears. Cut the stem back to the base of the shrub. To prune for size or shape, cut individual branches to just outside a bud or leaf node.
Re-pot ever two to four years, or as needed as the shrub grows. If the roots outgrow the container, move up to a slightly larger container or trim the roots to fit the pot.
Camellias can be grown inside year-around but they are going to be difficult creatures because you have to simulate their natural habitat environment (outdoors) in the house. And that, as many of us learn, can be difficult.
You have to provide several hours of sunlight, adequate humidity and cool nights. Think of conservatories and greenhouses where they are also grown and you get the idea. If you are successful then -add insult to injury- you also have the eventual problem of heigth. Even though plant size will be somewhat under control due to the use of a container, at some point the plant may get quite tall and require pruning as it gets close to the height of your ceiling. I wish I would have that problem, though.
Until you identify the exact problem that causes your current plants not to bloom well, I would not try another one, even if it is a sasanqua.
Possible areas of research regarding the bloom problem: not enough sunlight, inadequate humity levels, inside pests (spider mites for example), switching the plant in/out.
To clarify the last item, if your plant starts to grow the blooms while it is located inside the house then you could loose the blooms if you bring the shrub outside and the temperatures fluctuate a lot or often (the buds are not acclimated to the outside environment and are more sensitive to cold temps).
To help reach adequate humidity levels inside the home, consider installing a dial hygrometer to measure the relative humidity in the room. Measure the amount of sunlight/temperatures that the plant gets throughout the year in their current location by writing them down in a log or a wall calendar. And look out for pests during the bud forming time of the year (now).
Patricia Pichler on October 25, 2019:
MY cuttings have been in the pots with plastic bags over them for 4 weeks they have lots of new leaves is this a good sign. Thanks for your advice. Pat
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on March 27, 2018:
Thank you Tina. You are so right. I just stuck the wrong picture up there. I have put the correct one in. Thank you so much for letting me know.
Tina on March 26, 2018:
Thank you for your posting. I have 2 camellias I will be trying to root. One comment, are you sure that first photo is a Camellia and not a Peony? : )
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on September 16, 2014:
Sorry for the delay. Weekly misting will work just fine.
Peter Lyall on September 08, 2014:
Thanks for the great article, we have taken our cuttings, one question though, how often to mist the leaves? we are thinking weekly or fortnightly are we right? Peter
Manjula on January 10, 2014:
thank you very much for the tip on how to propogate from cutting .
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on October 01, 2013:
I am going to do this but now I am going to have to go sneaking around looking for rooting hormone cause I just don't want to ask! Just kidding, but I have never heard of it but will find it and do me a lot of these this coming spring, I love these and have so many pictures but only one tree myself, so I will let others share with me, lol. Will be interested to see what else you have. You really get a copyright on your quizzes if you don't have one and make a book of those to sell! E-book if nothing else.
grase sydney on May 14, 2013:
Thank You, very informative, will try to propagate with your instructive hints. Grase Sydney Australia
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 17, 2012:
Very informative hub and I learn many things here. My father loves gardening and I'll share this hub with him. Thanks for writing. Voted up!
Tariq Mehmood Khan from Seattle, Washington on September 17, 2012:
Good Job.Impressive article.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 17, 2012:
I have several camellia bushes in our yard but purchased them as shrubs in the nursery. Nice to know how to propagate them from cuttings. Thanks for this informative hub. Up votes plus will share.
Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on September 17, 2012:
I have camelia but never tried to grow it from cutting. It seems so complicated. Now probably will try it. Great info!
Jill Spencer from United States on September 17, 2012: