Camellia sasanqua.... Fall blooming with relatively small, showy flowers. Camellia japonica... Blooms from late fall through early spring with large, impressive blooms that are popular in camellia shows Hybrids... Very impressive blooms from fall through spring but many are suitable mainly for greenhouse culture. Camellias are native to China and Japan in regions with a climate similar to Central and South Alabama. There are hundreds of species of the genus Camellia but the species that are most popular in Alabama are:
Some camellia species and varieties are prolific seed producers. Seed are about the size of an acorn. They mature in the fall and may be immediately planted. New plants are ready for transplanting by spring if the seed are kept in a warm, protected place. Planting seed
Advantages Easy to produce lots of new plants May develop a new and superior variety or cultivar Disadvantages Seedlings are not like parent plants. May take several years for seedlings to bloom. Planting seed
This is the quickest way to create a new plant identical to the parent plant. Some varieties air-layer better than others. Air Layering
A limb is rooted in the spring and summer while still attached to the parent plant. After several months, the limb with new roots inside the air-layer is cut from the parent plant and potted. Air Layering
Select a limb and remove bark where roots will eventually grow. Air Layering The best time to air layer is in the spring and early summer.
A rooting hormone will speed up root development Wrap the wound in very moist sphagnum or moist potting soil. Air Layering
Wrap the rooting media around the limb and cover with a sheet of plastic or plastic wrap. Secure the plastic wrap around the limb with a twist tie or tape. Air Layering
Secure both ends to hold moisture. Wrap the entire air layer with aluminum foil to keep light out of the air layer. Air Layering
The air layer should stay in place through the summer or until the limb has produced roots. The limb can be cut from the parent plant and potted. You will probably be rewarded with blooms the following spring. Air Layering
Cleft grafting is the best way to collect a large number of named varieties for your garden. Grafted camellias may produce blooms within two years of grafting. Grafting
Scions of a named variety or desired selection are collected from a friend or nursery in January or February. These are immediately grafted onto an existing camellia which has been cut off near the ground. Grafting
The graft is protected for a few months until the graft heals and the new plant starts to grow. Grafting
Camellias may be grafted onto a potted plant or a plant in the landscape. The rootstock must be at least as big as a pencil for successful grafting. It is cut off about 1-inch above the soil surface. Grafting
Place clean, moist sand around the severed root stock. The sand will help keep the graft clean and anchor the protective cover that will be added later. Grafting
Split the rootstock with a sharp knife, tapping gently with a hammer. 1/4 to 1/2 inch rootstock The split will hold the scion (twig of the desired variety) when it is inserted. Grafting
Select healthy tip cuttings for your scions from the plant or variety you desire to propagate. Scions should be about 2 to 3 inches long. Remove all but two leaves. These may be cut in half to reduce transpiration loss. Grafting
Using a very sharp knife, trim the lower end of the scion into a vee shape. Close up view of the tip of a prepared scion. ~1/2 inch Grafting
Using a screwdriver as a wedge, gently open the split rootstock and insert the trimmed scion. The cambium layers just beneath the bark MUST be lined up on the rootstock and scion. With large rootstock such as this, two scions may be inserted, one on each side. This gives a double chance that at least one will grow successfully. Grafting
A plastic milk carton with the bottom removed can be placed over the new cleft graft. This will protect the graft and keep the humidity high until the scion begins to grow. If the scion is not held tightly in the cleft (slit), a rubber band or grafting tape may be wrapped around the root stock. Grafting
The sand that you added earlier helps to hold the milk carton in place. Place the freshly grafted plant in a shady location or cover the milk carton with shade cloth, pine straw, leaves, or mulch to protect it from sunlight. Grafting
The graft heals rapidly and, if protected, the new plants will grow quickly. The milk carton may be gradually removed during the early summer. Grafted plants grow rapidly because of the established root system from the root stock. Plants from successful grafts will reward you with blooms within two years. Grafting
Some camellias are easy to root from cuttings. Most C. sasanqua and some C. japonica root well. Rooted cuttings, especially from C. sasanqua, are popular as a source of root stock for grafting. This is a quick way to produce lots of plants that are identical to the parent. Rooting Cuttings
Select cuttings in the late spring when new growth has hardened. Tip cuttings and stem cuttings may be used. Remove all leaves but two from a 3- to 4-inch cutting. Gently scrape the lower stem to wound the cutting. Rooting Cuttings
Dip the cutting into a rooting hormone to speed up root development. Using a pencil or stick, make a hole for the cutting into moist potting soil. Several cuttings may be placed in the same container. Rooting Cuttings
Firm the potting soil around the new cuttings. Large leaves may be cut in half to reduce transpiration during rooting. Rooting Cuttings
Water the container well...... and place it inside a white or clear plastic bag. Rooting Cuttings
Secure the bag and place the cuttings in a cool, shady location for several months. Check for root development and water as needed. Once cuttings are rooted, they should be potted individually in fresh potting soil. Rooting Cuttings
Place fertilizer tablets in container with rooted cutting or fertilize regularly during the growing season. Don’t forget to properly label your rooted cuttings, grafts, or air-layers according to variety. Rooting Cuttings
Named varieties that you grew yourself help beautify your landscape and make excellent gifts for friends and neighbors.
Many C. japonica and hybrids bloom during the winter and early spring when blossoms can be damaged by cold weather or excessive rainfall. To promote earlier blooms in the fall and sometimes larger blooms, camellia growers will add a drop of the plant growth hormone, gibberellin or gibberellic acid, to the flower bud. This stimulates the bud to bloom earlier than normal.
“Gibbing” camellias for fall blooms STEP 1. Identify the vegetative bud next to a flower bud on the tip of a branch.
“Gibbing” camellias for fall blooms STEP 2. Twist off the small, vegetative bud.
“Gibbing” camellias for fall blooms STEP 3. Apply one drop of the prepared gibberellic acid* in the cup left after removing the vegetative bud. *Gibberellic acid can be ordered from the American Camellia Society or shared by members of the A-O Men’s Camellia Club.
This slide set was produced by the Auburn-Opelika Men’s Camellia Culb for public education on the beauty and culture of camellias. Charles Mitchell, Producer Bill Shell, Photographer Some images were used from Alabama Cooperative Extension System circular ANR-202 and from the web site of the Gainesville (Florida) Camellia Club.