How to prune camellias - a step-by-step guide to encourage even more blooms next year

Hint: it all depends on the age of your plant

Camellias in garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Love seeing a garden full of colour? Well, camellias are among some of the best flowering shrubs for early spring blooms, and the stunning pink and white flowers are truly a sight to behold. But to ensure a colour-filled garden every year, you need to know how to prune camellias.

Knowing how to grow camellias is one of the best ways to bring your flower bed ideas to life, as these glossy evergreens offer some of the showiest flowers we’ve ever seen. But with great camellias comes great responsibility. And while this plant isn’t as high-maintenance as some of the other flowering shrubs out there, you still need to take care of it.

One thing you’ll need to do is prune your camellias, and this requires some expert knowledge. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you and put together the ultimate step-by-step guide you need.

How to prune camellias

‘Pruning camellias is essential for their health and appearance,’ explains Morris Hankinson, Director of Hopes Grove Nurseries. ‘But it's worth noting that camellias vary in their growth habits and pruning requirements, so always research the specific type of camellia you have.’ Here are the general guidelines, though.

What you’ll need


1. Choose the right time

Knowing how to prune camellias is one thing, but if you don’t know when to prune camellias, you could actually do more harm than good. So, always prune camellias in the spring after they’ve flowered.

Calum Maddock, gardening expert at, explains, ‘This ensures you don’t remove the new growth that will produce next year’s blooms.’

However, if you’re looking to hard prune your camellias, you should specifically add this to your list of garden jobs to do in March or opt for a late winter prune. Just don’t expect to see any new flowers for the next couple of years, as camellias take a few years to recover after hard pruning.

Camellias in a bush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Clean your tools

When you have an overgrown camellia in need of a trim, it can be easy to grab your secateurs and give it a haircut right there and then. Before you get too scissor-happy, however, you should always clean your garden tools.

For this particular job, we’d suggest sharpening your secateurs on a sharpening stone and then sterilising them to remove any lingering germs or potential diseases. This will allow you to make sharp, clean cuts when pruning your camellia.

3. Remove any dead or diseased branches

With your clean tools in hand, you should then inspect your camellia and look out for any diseased, dead, or overlapping branches. If you spot any, cut them off to prevent the spread of disease.

Morris says, ‘Cut these branches back to healthy growth - make clean cuts just above a healthy bud or branch junction.’

Camellias in garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Slightly trim young plants

If your camellia is less than four years old, you shouldn’t have to prune it too much. In fact, pruning too hard can damage the plant at this stage. Instead, focus on lightly trimming it.

‘Light shaping involves pinching or snipping the ends of branches by 1-2.5cm,’ says Callum. ‘This encourages bushier growth and helps maintain the desired size of your camellia.’

This type of trimming may not be enough for an older camellia, though.

Carmellias bush in garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Hard prune an older shrub

If your camellia is older than four years, you’ll need to give it a bigger haircut. Ideally, you should aim to thin out the inner branches of the plant to encourage airflow and allow more sunlight to reach the middle.

But if you’re struggling to maintain the shape and size of your camellia and want to cut it down and start again, you can hard prune it in late winter or March. Just make sure that you leave at least half of the plant above ground level, and be warned that it will take a few years for it to get back to full health.

‘While this technique sacrifices blooms for a season or two, it encourages vigorous new growth and helps to rejuvenate the plant,’ explains Callum.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex.


What month do you prune camellias?

If you’re looking to tidy up the shape and size of your camellia, you should do this in the spring immediately after flowering. However, if you’re looking to hard prune your camellia, you should aim to do this specifically in the month of March or in the winter.

Can camellias be cut back hard?

Yes, you can cut camellias back hard, but you should only do this on plants that are well-established and at least four years old. You also need to make sure that you do this at the right time, so focus on completing this task in March.

It’s also worth noting that camellias will take a few years to recover and flower again after hard pruning, so don’t expect to see flowers again for the next couple of years.

Remember, it might not look as though you need to prune your camellia, but a light trim here and there wouldn’t go amiss.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.