Pruning Camellias – [How and when to prune]


The genus Camellia groups between 100 and 250 species (the experts do not quite come to an agreement) originating in the tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia, China and Japan. Its striking green foliage, elegant conformation and brightly colored flowers make it one of the most popular winter and spring shrubs in all the world’s gardens.


But just as you need to paint your house to make it look pretty, or cleaning floor to make it shine, your camellias need careful care to keep them looking their best. Among the care, one that stands out is pruning, as you can imagine in this post we will analyze everything about camellias pruning. How and when to do it, types of essential pruning, necessary tools and more.

Pruning camellias - How and when to prune

Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.

1. Interesting facts about camellias


Before entering the main topic of this post, prune the camellias, I leave some interesting facts about this bush. I bet what you want, you do not know one or several of them. 😉

  • Camellia was introduced in the West throughout the sixteenth century by European navigators who trafficked in the East.
  • There are hybrids of double or multiple corolla with a multitude of petals, which are the most used in gardening nowadays, but originally their flower has 5 sepals and 5 petals.
  • In Japan it is given a very particular use to its seeds, it is extracted an oil which is used for hair dye.
  • There is no doubt that the most popular camellia variety is Japan, of which there are up to 3000 different varieties.
  • Much of the popularity of this beautiful plant in Europe is due to Alexandre Dumas for his novel “The Lady of the Camellias”, inspired by an actual fact of his own life. A novel that in turn inspired Giuseppe Verdi to compose his opera “La Traviata”.
  • Camellia bushes can live up to 100 to 200 years, although the oldest living camellia, planted in 1347, can be found in China’s Panlong Monastry.
  • Camellia represents adoration, devotion and loveliness.

Up here with some curiosities about camellias, I hope you have found them interesting. Let’s now turn to the main theme of the article, the pruning of camellias.

2. Tools needed to prune or trim an camellia bush


There are several tools that you will need to perform your pruning or trimming of a camellia bush. Each of them is appropriate for different cases depending on age, time of year, type of pruning, etc.

  • Hand Pruning Shears: Stems up to half inch in diameter can be pruned with hand shears.
  • Lopping Shears: It is suitable to use on stems between half inch and 2 inches in diameter.
  • Hedge Shears: Manual and power shears are available for trimming hedges. Manual shears have long, flat blades with relatively short handles and are good for small jobs. Electric shears are a good choice for larger hedges.
  • Saws: A number of pruning saws are available. These saws come with either curved or straight blades and of variable lengths and points. Curved blades that cut on the draw stroke are easy to use.

Keep in mind that you must disinfect all the tools before trimming your camellia. This will help prevent disease transmission, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.

2.1 Needed care of pruning tools

If you want to extend the useful life of your pruning tools there are some basic care.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Carry out the previous care on a regular basis and you will be saving good money on tools. 🙂

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

3. How to prune camellias bushes


In general, it can be said that pruning in trucks is not a 100% vital care for the proper development of this shrub. In the same way it responds very well to her helping us to improve the flowering, to control its size and shape and to rejuvenate its branches.

We can distinguish three types of pruning camellias, are the following:

  • Maintenance and cleaning pruning.
  • Trimming to form the bush.
  • Flower pruning.
  • Hard pruning.
  • Pruning leggy camellias.

Since each of the previous prunings are very different, both in objectives and in techniques, we will then separately develop each of them.

3.1 Maintenance and cleaning camellia pruning

This pruning of the camellia is the classic pruning that almost every plant needs. The objective of the plant is to keep the plant healthy, eliminate unhelpful elements for development and improve flowering to a certain degree.

As I always say, before starting to cut back, take some time to analyze the plant carefully, then you should eliminate the following:

  • Begin to trim the branches completely dry, will help the aesthetics of the plant.
  • If you find branches attacked by a plague or disease, it is time to cut it.
  • Eliminates the pacifiers, besides not producing flowers, they contain a lot of energy. They are usually inside the plant, look for them and take them from their base.
  • If you see branches with a bad orientation or crossed that do not go hand in hand with the shape of your shrub cut them.

3.2 Trimming to form the camellia bush

Camellias are shrubs, that is more than clear, as you must also be clear that shrubs are plants that adapt perfectly to pruning to shape. The form can be of the most varied; type pyramid, type paragua, etc. In this section we will give general advice for any way you want to give, then it will be your task to select and carry out the way you want, it is a matter of imagination. 😉

Prunning to form the camellia bush
Prunning to form – Source Wikipedia

Now with the shape that you are going to give in your head, the first thing you should look for is to densify the foliage. To achieve this, all the branches will be broken, so you will be promoting the generation of new buds. When these new buds have developed enough you should blunt them again, do this on several occasions until you reach the desired nudity.

At the same time as fences densifying the foliage you can go looking for the way you are looking for. Remember that this plant responds very well to pruning, so do not be afraid to cut.

If with the pruning of the camellia you managed to give the shape you wanted, the next pruning will be a piece of cake. Just enough to find the cut of a previous pruning, cut at the height of said cut, and you will have the previous shape.

3.3 Flower pruning

While this practice may not be considered a pruning of the camellia, it involves trimming plant elements. For that analysis is that I considered it important to talk about the thinning of cocoons in this article.

The thinning of cocoons in a camellia has very similar objectives to the thinning of fruits in any fruit tree. The same is none other than improving the quality of the fruit or flower.

As in most varieties of camellias more than one bud is produced per flower bud, and many times there is more cocoon than the plant can open, this thinning is more than necessary. On the other hand thinning may or may not be necessary depending on the taste of the gardener, if you prefer many but small flowers to have fewer flowers but larger, you can do without this task.

If the thinning of buds is carried out, it is advisable to leave one or two of them at the end of each branch, with a distribution of one cocoon every 10 cm. This will give a very good appearance to the plant once flowered.

How and when to prune camellia
Camellia flower

Finally it should be noted that many species of camellias carry out the thinning of buds in a natural way. Correctly observe the variety of your camellia, since early thinning in a variety of natural thinning can leave you almost without flowers.

3.5 Hard pruning camellias

To start talking about hard pruning, we must first understand what hard pruning is considered. This type of pruning is the one that involves the severe elimination of a significant part of the branches of a plant. That is to say that we cause a drastic reduction of its total size.

While light pruning focuses on selective trimming to maintain shape and control growth, hard pruning is more aggressive and involves reducing the plant to a more manageable size. Depending on the situation and the type of plant, hard pruning can pursue different objectives:

  • Control excessive growth.
  • Rejuvenation of the plant.
  • Restoration of a plant that has suffered damage.

In the particular case of camellias, it is common to need hard pruning when we go a couple of years without regular pruning. This type of carelessness is the most common to need hard pruning, although it can also be needed in old camellias, which have lost their vigor or flowering capacity. With a hard pruning we will stimulate new growth. Lastly, we may need this pruning on camellias heavily attacked by a pest or that have suffered from frost.

3.5.1 Best practices for hard pruned camellias

Although this flowering shrub resists strong pruning quite well, it is essential to take certain care when carrying it out. Let’s look at each of them below:

  • Season: Ideally in late winter or early spring before the start of new growth. This allows the plant to recover and produce new shoots and foliage during the growing season. Drastic pruning too early risks exposing new growth to possible frost.
  • Tools and equipment: in this type of pruning we will make many cuts in the plant, so it is essential to have sharp and clean pruning tools. In this way you can make clean cuts that affect the plant to a lesser extent.
  • Gradual approach: when the camellia is too neglected, and needs a very hard pruning, the ideal is to do it gradually. Schedule several staggered prunings over two to three years to reduce stress on the plant. This approach allows the camellia to recover more effectively and minimizes the risk of shock.
  • Elimination: Do not eliminate more than a third of the total during pruning. Focus on removing old, damaged, or crossed branches while maintaining a balanced and aesthetically pleasing shape.
  • Post-pruning care: after intense pruning, it is important to do some care. They will seek to reduce stress on the plant and help it recover. Be sure to water abundantly and apply fertilizer. You can also place a mulch of organic matter to better maintain moisture and temperature in the soil.

If you don’t feel qualified or confident to do such a major pruning, keep in mind that you can hire a professional to do it for you.

3.4 Pruning leggy camellias

Legged camellias are characterized by having sparse foliage, with most of the growth concentrated on the upper part of the plant, leaving the lower branches bare.

Pruning done correctly will allow you to rejuvenate long-legged camellias and restore their natural beauty. Let’s see what you must take into account to carry out this pruning.

1- Season: This is a pruning that can be considered a hard pruning, therefore it should be carried out in late winter or early spring. The reason for selecting this time is the same as detailed in the previous section.

2- Tools: like all pruning, it is essential to have properly sharpened and clean tools.

3- Plant Assessment: Do a preliminary analysis to find all those branches that are long, thin or have sparse foliage.

4- Pruning techniques: To prune long-legged camellias, you will need to employ several pruning techniques:

  • Heading back: once all the long, thin branches have been observed, prune them selectively by cutting them just above a set of healthy shoots or leaf nodes.
  • Thinning: if the camellia has a large number of branches, you can thin them out. In this way it allows better air circulation and more light to enter.
  • Shape: if the foliage allows it, you can take advantage of this pruning to give the bush a certain shape. Focus on maintaining a balanced frame by removing branches that detract from the overall appearance of the plant.

5- Care after pruning:

Once the pruning is finished, it is important to provide some care such as good irrigation, fertilization and a good mulch of organic matter. It is also important to monitor the growth of the plant. And if necessary, carry out some additional pruning to ensure the disappearance of those unwanted long branches.

4. When to prune camellias


When pruning camellias is something that goes hand in hand with the type of pruning as well as the area in which this shrub is planted.

  • Cleaning pruning: this pruning must be done when the plant is not in full development activity. That is to say that the right time is winter. Thus and all the cutting of dry wood can be done at any time of the year.
  • Pruning to shape: this type of pruning should be done during the vegetative period, at the time of flowering, and before the new shoots begin to form. This is in the early stages of formation (densification of foliage). When we have the plant formed we can prune only in winter.
  • Flower thinning: this task should be done when the buds are developed, and before flowering.

Before starting to cut your camellia, analyze whether you are at the right time to perform that task, or you can harm your plant.

4.1 Pruning camellias in summer

Although summer is not the most recommended time for pruning, there are certain pruning tasks that can be carried out. moment. The pruning that we can carry out will always be light, without removing too much foliage from the bush. We can prune branches to help shape the plant, remove dead or damaged branches and promote optimal growth for the following year.

If you have a somewhat neglected camellia bush, it may be time to start thinning the foliage. In this way, when the time comes, you will not need to perform such hard pruning.

The ideal time during the summer to prune camellias is when they have finished blooming. This ensures that you won’t accidentally remove any flower buds that have formed for the next blooming season. The time when flowering ends varies from region to region, but usually occurs in early summer.

4.2 Can you prune camellias in autumn?

If you have been attentive reading the article, you will have seen that until now we have never talked about pruning in autumn. This is not simply because fall is not the best time to prune.

You may be wondering why fall is not a good time to prune camellias. This is because it can interfere with the plant’s ability to produce flower buds for the next blooming season.

Autumn pruning for camellias is only limited to particular cases. In general, it is only advisable to do it when the camellia has suffered some type of damage (storm, disease, plague, etc.).

4.3 When to prune fall blooming camellias?

Fall-blooming camellias, also known as sasanquas, require a different pruning schedule compared to other camellia varieties. If you prune normally like any other camellia, you will surely be affecting the health or flowering of the bush.

These types of camellias usually start producing buds in late summer and continue to bloom through the fall season. With this in mind, the ideal time to prune these camellias is immediately after they finish blooming. That is to say that it should be pruned at the end of autumn or the first days of winter.

5. How to prune camellias in pots


It is very common to consult how a potted camellia should be pruned, so common that I found it interesting to dedicate some lines in responding to this concern.

It is very simple, prune camellias in pots has nothing in particular with respect to those seen so far. I recommend you apply the pruning that we saw in this article and you will not have problems.

If your camellia is in a pot because you want to practice bonsai in it the subject is very different. Bonsai pruning is something much deeper. Since I do not want to expand I leave this video (CapeFearBonsai) where they explain how to prune a potted camellia bonsai.

6. Pruning camellia japonica


As we said, Camellia japonica is the most popular variety of this shrub, therefore it is a very common query, how to prune a camellia japonica?.

In short, I can tell you that everything seen so far is perfectly adapted to this camelia varidead. If you do not want to read the whole article, I can summarize the pruning of camelia japonica in the following paragraphs.

The camellia japonica does not need an annual pruning, although it responds very well to it, and is necessary when you want to make the plant more compact and shrubby, or to give it a certain shape. In this case it must be done during the vegetative period, at the time of flowering, and before the new shoots begin to form.

It is also convenient to cut the suckers that appear inside old plants; in this way the energies are reserved for the productive shoots of the plant.

Finally, emphasize that camelia japonia pruduce a large number of buds, many times more than can develop. It carries out a thinning of its buds (as we saw in previous sections), for a better quality of flowers.

7. Pruning camellias youtube


As is the custom of this blog we like to close the articles with a video material (in this case My Tabor City Home channel), where you can review more graphically and practice many of the concepts seen so far. 😉

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

So here we are, I hope that everything was clear about how and when to prune camellias, and do not have any doubt at the moment that you should take your scissors and trim.

4.5/5 - (11 votes)
Tags:  , , ,