When to Fertilize Camellias [A Complete Guide]

Grow exquisite blooms when you learn our must-know techniques to fertilize camellias at the right time and in the right way.

Sean Stratton | Updated January 31, 2023
beautiful camellia plant with flowers

It’s that time of year when camellia shrubs are thriving. You anticipate the glossy, dark-green bushes blooming beautiful flowers, but instead, you find that your camellias are struggling to survive.

This is most likely the result of improper fertilization. The proper fertilization time makes the difference between a bush that shades and one that fades.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry! We’ve prepared this brief guide to help you brush up on your knowledge of when to fertilize camellias and turn you into a successful camellia gardener.

Also Read: Essential Fertilizer for Strawberries

When to Fertilize Camellias

Spring (April & May) is when camellias most benefit from fertilizer’s added nutrients. This is the time when you will see new growth begin to emerge and the plant prepares to produce new flowers.

You can also fertilize camellias again in the fall (September & October) when the plant prepares for dormancy. It’s essential to use a fertilizer formulated explicitly for camellias and to follow the instructions on the package for the proper application rate.

You may need to fertilize multiple times to maintain your camellias’ nutritional needs properly. In the southeastern United States, usually, there are three fertilizer applications per year, such as during the first part of March, May, and July.

Camellia Fertilizer: Tips to Consider

Before removing your gardening gloves, take a look at these tips for fertilizing camellias. 

Before purchasing fertilizer, you should test the pH level of your soil. Camellias thrive best in acidic soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. After testing your soil, find the appropriate fertilizer for your needs.

Before applying the fertilizer, clean up any fallen leaves and dried flowers from around the bush. This will reduce the risk of fungi that cause blight.

You can now apply the fertilizer according to the package instructions. First, pull back the mulch before fertilizing. This helps to prevent runoff. Apply the fertilizer between four inches out from the trunk to the edge of where the branches end.

Clean the extra mulch around the shrub and thoroughly water the fertilized area. Maintain a proper watering schedule and ensure proper water drainage.

Keep an eye on new seed formations around the bush. New seed formations may drain energy from the plant and hinder its growth.

Feeding Camellias

Okay, your camellia shrubs are getting proper nutrition after fertilization and starting to have glossy leaves. It sounds like your hard work is paying off. Unfortunately, these fertilizers are not going to feed your camellias forever!

Gradually your camellias will run out of food, and you’ll need to do something quickly. It’s important to note that camellias are considered to be heavy feeders. So, now, a new question arises ‘what to feed my camellias?’.

Feeding Camellias in Pots

For those with minimal garden space, pot planters are here to save the day. Evergreen camellia shrubs thrive in pots but require special care for them to grow. Camellias prefer moist but well-drained acidic soil. Rainwater is best for camellias as it’s slightly acidic.

If you run out, tap water is sufficient for your plants. Camellias do not like constantly soggy or wet soil conditions. Overwatering or constant wet soil may lead to the onset of root rot and other plant diseases. So, do not overwater your plants.

Camellia plants also require proper sunlight and cool temperatures to bud up and bloom. Put the plant in the coolest area of your house but always make sure your plant gets 8 to 10 hours of light per day.

If there isn’t enough natural light, place the plant under or close to full-spectrum lighting. And finally, change the pot every two or three years, and don’t forget to put ericaceous compost.

Feeding Camellias with Tea

Imagine you are having afternoon tea, and your camellias are asking to join you! Okay, that might be a pretty bad joke, but you can actually save your leftover tea leaves and feed them to your camellias.

The tea leaves break down soil and help to achieve acidic pH levels. Feeding your leftover tea will give an ‘extra boost’ to your camellias’ growth.

The Best Time to Fertilize Camellias in Your City

The best time to fertilize camellias will depend on the blooming season in your city. So, take a look at this list of areas and their best time for fertilizing camellias, and find out when you should fertilize your camellias.

When to Fertilize Camellias in NC (North Carolina)?

In North Carolina, camellias bloom from late September through early April. So, the best time for fertilization in NC would be March, May, and July but avoid fertilizing in August, as the low temperatures can cause damage to your plants.

When to Fertilize Camellias in California?

Camellias are a great choice for the gardens of California. Bloom time in California varies from species to species.  Usually, Sasanquas bloom from mid-fall to early winter and Japonicas from mid-winter to spring.

Like the blooming season, the time of fertilization may vary, but the best time for feeding acid-forming fertilizer would be spring, followed by another dose in the midsummer if the growth seems a little sluggish.

When to Fertilize Camellias in Florida?

Florida typically has warm weather. So, for the best fertilizer application, wait for the blooming season to end. After a month or so, use the first dose of fertilizers in spring or early summer. After that, you may apply fertilizers approximately every two months until you see new buds in your plants.

When to Fertilize Camellias in Australia?

In Australia, Sasanqua Camellias bloom over a long period from March to June. On the other hand, Japonica Camellias bloom from late autumn to spring. Usually, the fertilizing time in Australia takes place in December and then just before flowering.

Final Words

There are more than 250 known species to the genus Camellia. That means the time of fertilization may differ from one species to another. This section is dedicated to the renowned beauty queens; Camellia Sasanqua, Camellia Japonica, and other winter-blooming camellias.

For the beauty queens, the time of fertilizing remains almost the same. The first dose should be just after the first flush of growth, in between April and May, and the second dose in July. But always focus on the proper time period, don’t be late.

Late summer and fall fertilization may lead to tender growth of your plant being hampered by early cold periods. So, it’s better to skip an application than apply it too late.

The proper time to apply fertilizers is the secret of every successful camellia gardener. Apply the tips in this article to your camellia shrubs and prepare for success this blooming season.

Written by Sean Stratton

Sean Stratton

Hi, I'm Sean, the senior editor here at Fertilizer Pick. I grew up on a farm in North Carolina and have grown fruits, vegetables, and trees since childhood. While I no longer live on a farm today, I still enjoy spending time on my garden and sharing my knowledge with friends and fellow garden enthusiasts.