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9 Helpful Tips on When and How to Prune Camellias

red camellia

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just a beginner, you must have heard about camellias—the queen of winter flowers. These eye-catching, evergreen shrubs are famous for their beauty, exquisite flowers, and fantastic foliage. All these qualities make camellias a great addition to your home garden.

Taking care of camellias is pretty straightforward, but you must know how to prune the plant correctly to keep it at optimum health. A few pruning tips can help you cultivate the plant in any shape or size you want.

Before bringing these gorgeous plants to your garden, ensure you know when and how to prune camellias. Here is a step-by-step guide with some effective tips to make things easier for you.

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The 9 Tips for Pruning Camellias

1. Know the Right Time to Prune

pink camellia in full bloom
Image Credit: Maria, Pixabay

The ideal time to prune your camellia plant is when its flowers have completely bloomed. This mostly happens when spring is around the corner or has already arrived. However, some varieties may have different blooming periods.

Of course, pruning at other times of the year may not affect the plant. But there is a chance that you may have fewer blooms next year. Therefore, asking an expert about the right time to prune camellias is essential. You can also do research online and check the blooming period of your camellia plant species. Just ensure that you’re pruning at the right time.

2. Prune the Plant With Sharp Shears and Saw

person pruning a plant
Image Credit: SARAPON, Shutterstock

Camellia plants consist of many smaller and larger branches. It’s better not to use one cutting tool for the entire plant, or it may damage some parts. The pruning shears work wonders for smaller stems, and the saw will be ideal for bigger ones.

Make sure that your tools are sharp enough. That’s because a sharp cut heals quicker than a rough cut. It also mitigates the risks of disease-carrying microorganisms entering the plant through the cut.

If you’re unsure about the right tools for pruning camellias, visit your nearest garden center and consult a professional. They will recommend the right tools based on your camellia variety.

3. Use Clean Tools for Pruning

pruning scissors and camellia flower
Image Credit: Kym McLeod, Shutterstock

Many beginners don’t focus on cleaning their tools and gardening equipment regularly. This either results in pest infestations or diseases spreading from one plant to another.

Cleaning gardening tools means removing soil, dirt, and debris from them. You may not realize it, but disease-causing bacteria and viruses are everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before they infect your plants. You can avoid this by cleaning your tools with liquid bleach or any household disinfectant. Make sure to wear gloves when handling the chemicals.

4. Make Cuts Close to the Branches

pruning the branches of camellia
Image Credit: samuel perales, Shutterstock

Now it’s time to make some cuts. Take a blade and make cuts close to the remaining branches without damaging the bark.

Once you’re done pruning, the plant will start ensuring its protection from disease-causing microorganisms that may enter through the cuts. Their first-hand defense mechanism is to grow new material at the raised ridges. So, try not to make any cuts on the ridges present at the connection points between the two branches.

5. Make the Inner Leaves and Stems Thin

blooming japanese camellia
Image Credit: Mariya 🌸🌺🌼, Pixabay

Always thin out the camellia plant’s inner stems and leaves. Doing so improves the airflow for the plant and enables more light to reach the plant’s middle region. This will help you control pest infestations and prevent diseases.

To thin out the leaves and stems properly, cut whole branches from the point they connect with other branches. Also, don’t throw away the pruned material. Instead, add it to the plants as mulch.

6. Cultivate the Branches to Your Desired Size

pink camellia flowers
Image Credit: Christiane, Pixabay

Cut the end of the plant’s branches according to your desired size and shape. It will help you ensure full growth of the plant and maybe more flowers.

If you don’t know how this works, it’s recommended to prune an inch or less for large plant growth. Similarly, prune back to just a few inches less than your desired size to grow a small camellia plant.

7. Fertilize the Plant With an Acidic Fertilizer

Image Credit: pixel2013, Pixabay

Maintaining camellia plants is as vital as pruning them. They love acid, so treating them with a quality acidic fertilizer in spring and early summer is better. You can also opt for organic fertilizers containing seaweed, bone, and blood. But since they are slightly alkaline, use them with care on acidic soils.

First, pull a significant portion of mulch and carefully add the fertilizer around the plant. Then, water the plant well to protect it from burning.

8. Avoid Overwatering the Plant

freshly watered camellia
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Camellias don’t require moisture to thrive. However, when exposed to wet conditions, they may develop fungal diseases.

One such fungal disease is leaf gall or edema. In the worst-case scenario, the plant may also contract root rot, another fungal disease that finally results in the death of the plant.

Your camellias may also develop petal blight, which is a common spring disease caused due to excessive water. Thus, never overwater your camellias to ensure their optimum health and growth.

9. Remove Drying Flowers

pink camellia in full bloom
Image Credit: Toshiharu Watanabe, Pixabay

Take a final look at your camellia plant. If you see drying or dead flowers attached to the branches, remove them quickly. Although causing no harm to the plant, dead blooms aren’t a pleasant sight, making your plant look dull.

Deadheading also encourages the development of new flowers. It’s better to remove dead flowers with your hand instead of tools to prevent damage to the branches. Just twist the bloom gently to get rid of it.

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Camellias are gorgeous-looking plants with beautiful blooms. Just the sight of them is enough to instantly uplift your mood after a long, tiring day at work. These plants also make your garden and backyard look pleasant and a delight to spend time in.

However, they require proper maintenance and pruning to grow healthily and properly. So, follow the nine steps mentioned above, and be gentle to your beautiful camellias!

Featured Image Credit: S. Hermann/F. Richter, Pixabay


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