How to grow camellias for a vibrant show of pink flowers every spring

Jealous of all those Barbie-pink blooms around town? Here's how to grow your own camellias at home

Camellia blooming in a garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's one of those plants you forget all about until early springtime, when their showy flowers suddenly bloom and fill our worlds with some much needed colour. So, how to grow camellias if you want a riotous display in your own garden?

The short answer is – wait for it – surprisingly easily. As well-suited to life in a container as they are your flower bed ideas, these glossy evergreen flowering shrubs will add plenty of seasonal interest to your outdoor space.

Best of all? Well, they're guaranteed to bloom at a time of year when little much else is flowering, which means they're well worth the little effort you put in. If only to turn your neighbours green with envy...

How to grow camellias

'Camellias are resilient, tough plants that hail originally from mountainous and coastal regions of the Far East – they can cope with whatever the UK weather throws at them. At Chiswick House and Gardens, we have a few, historic specimens under glass that have coped well with temperatures from -5°C to 40°C,' promises Rosie Fyles, head of gardens at Chiswick House & Gardens.

Now, before we dive straight into how to grow camellias, it's important to take a beat and decide exactly when you want yours to burst into colour.

If you want your camellias to flower in the autumn and winter, you'll want to source a camellia sasanqua (like the Camellia sasanqua 'Plantation Pink' from Crocus), which flowers in autumn and winter.

If you'd like yours to add a pop of colour to your life come late winter and early spring, however, try a camellia japonica or the Camellia × williamsii 'Donation' from Crocus.

Now that's out of the way, let's dive into the how of it all...

What you will need

As ever, it's a good idea to gather the tools you will need for this gardening job before you get started. 

To that end, then, make sure that you have:

Step-by-step guide

Now that you have everything you need, it's time to learn how to grow camellias in earnest – and, rest assured, if you do the job well, yours will soon prove to be one of those plants that add value to your home.

Let's get started...

1. Find the perfect planting location

Camellia blooming in a garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To grow camellias successfully, you need to select a suitable planting location with well-draining, acidic soil and partial shade.

'This plant prefers protection from direct sunlight, especially during the hottest parts of the day,' says Julian Palphramand, Head of Plants at British Garden Centres.

If you want something truly bold, Rosie adds that 'my favourite use for camellias is one I see in a front garden on my bike commute, where three or five plants have been shaped into a loose hedge, about a metre high and the flowers line the path to the front door'. 

'It looks stunning – like an early spring show of bright pink roses from the road,' she says. 

Consider camellia added to our list of best hedging plants, then.

2. Plant your camellia carefully

If you really want to learn how to grow camellias, it all starts from the very hole you dig!

'When planting, ensure that the hole is twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper,' says Julian. 'Gently loosen the roots before placing the plant in the hole, then water thoroughly to settle the soil.'

3. Prep your camellia to be self-sufficient

'It's a good idea to mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds,' says Julian. 

Rosie agrees, noting that it's a good idea to think about applying a good, compost or bark mulch after rain around your plants if you get chance.

'That will retain moisture should there by a very dry summer and give them some nutrients they might appreciate,' she says, reminding us that it's always easier to save an underwatered plant than an overwatered one.

4. Set up a pruning schedule

Camellias in full bloom against a blue sky

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Camellias do not need to be pruned regularly, but will usually need to be trimmed after flowering each year to help them keep their shape.

Camellias can be pruned hard in April/May,' says Rosie. 'Don’t be nervous of removing congestion and creating space and air between the branches of a big shrub, as it will prevent any fungal disease that might build up and enable all the leaves to gain more sunlight.'

5. Show them some TLC

If you're learning how to grow camellias, take some time to brush up on your deadheading skills, too: removing those vibrant flowers as they start to fade will keep your plant looking much healthier.

It's also a good idea to feed your camellias in early spring with an ericaceous fertiliser (never feed them any later than July, as it can cause bud drop).

'While an established camellia should not need watering unless we are in drought conditions, young or moved camellias will need looking after for up to three years,' adds Rosie, noting that you should keep the soil moist for the first 18 months. 

'Water them well (drench) in very dry conditions at the base of the plant,' she adds, 'and try to aim for the core root area.'


Where is the best place to plant a camellia?

As mentioned already, camellias thrive in acidic soil – but they also fare best in a sheltered position, away from cold winds and early morning sun. 

Try to find them a spot that's partially shady, too: these pretty blooms don't like it when things get too bright.

What month is best to plant camellias?

As ever, the when is every bit as vital as the how when learning how to grow camellias, so be sure to plant yours in the autumn while the soil is still warm.

Can camellias grow in pots?

You can learn how to grow camellia in pots, and absolutely should if your garden soil isn't acidic, as it means you can create the best possible conditions for them.

Tempted? All you have to do is fill a pot that is at least 30cm wide with a soil-based, peat-free ericaceous compost mix, water them thoroughly with rainwater (hey, we told you rain harvesting was a good idea), and follow the maintenance tips already listed.

Now that you know how to grow camellias, your front garden will soon be aglow with a wash of vibrant pink flowers (or even red or white blooms, should you prefer it). 

Just be sure to show your plants the love and care they deserve, and they'll be sure to love you back with a gorgeous display each year. Good luck.

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.