Camellias bloom in the early Spring with their flower buds developing in the Summer for the following year. Camellias are hardy plants but if your camellia is not displaying flowers in the Spring then this there are a few reasons for this…
Camellias that aren’t flowering is due to unfavourable soil conditions, frost damage, pruning at the wrong time, too much fertilizer, too much shade or drought stress. The most common reason for no blooms is because of frost damage whilst the flower buds are developing on the camellia.
Keep reading to learn why your camellia is not blooming and for the best practices to ensure your camellia displays flowers the following season…
1. Soil Conditions for Camellia to Flower
The optimal soil conditions for camellia to flower are:
- Rich loam soil or soil amended with organic matter, that retains moisture yet has a porous structure that allows excess water to drain away.
- A slightly acidic soil pH of 5.8-6.5.
- Nutrient rich soil that is frequently mulched to further conserve water, improve soil structure and add nutrients to the soil.
If the soil is sandy, dry, low or nutrients then the camellia does not have the resources (in terms of soil moisture and nutrients) it requires to flower.
Similarly boggy soil due to heavy clay or because of low lying areas are not favourable conditions for camellia to flower as saturated soil promotes the conditions for fungal diseases such as root rot.
Camellias that are struggling to flower that are planted in dry, sandy or nutrient poor soil should be transplanted or lifted out the ground and the soil should be amended with lots organic matter such as compost, leaf mould or well rotted manure.
These soil amendments recreate the perfect growing conditions for camellia that replicate its preferred soil conditions in its native habitat under tree canopies.
The greater the area surrounding the root ball of the camellia you can amend the better it can grow and the more favourable the conditions are for flowering.
2. Soil pH is Too Alkaline for Flowering
Camellias require similar soil conditions to other plants that prefer acidic soil such as rhododendrons and azaleas.
The optimal soil pH for camellia to grow and flower are ph 5.5- ph 6.5 (7 is pH neutral).
If your soil is too acidic (lower then pH 5.5) or too alkaline (pH higher then 7) which is much more probable, then the roots of the camellia cannot access the nutrients it requires which can stress the plant and cause it to not flower and leaves turn yellow.
It is likely that a neighbor or someone in the local area who is a keen gardener can tell you whether your garden soil is alkaline or perhaps you can buy a soil testing kit from amazon to find out.
In gardens with alkaline soil the best option is to grow camellias in a pot or container or raised bed so you can customize the soil characteristics to suit the camellia to promote flowering.
3. Too Much Fertilizer Causes Fewer Flowers
If you apply fertilizer too frequently to the camellia or in too high concentration then the nitrogen in the fertilizer can stimulate lots of lush green foliage growth at the expense of flowers.
Camellias do not require regular fertilizer for flowering in the same way that is necessary for roses as camellias or not heavy feeders.
The best way to ensure camellias flower is with good soil preparation before planting (by amending the soil with lots of compost and organic matter) and mulching regularly to feed the soil and add nutrients.
Good soil preparation provides camellia with all the nutrients required for flowering, however there are some cases where camellias may benefit for added fertilizer:
- Camellias that are planted in a pot can exhaust all the nutrients in the soil and can benefit from an application of fertilizer in order to flower.
- Camellias in poor soil such as sandy soils which are not nutrient rich, or camellia that have been planted in soil and have not been mulched regularly.
If your camellia is not flowering and growth is sparse or spindly then ideally use a specific camellia fertilizer such as miracle-gro which provides the right balance of nutrients for you camellia with the right level of concentration to flower.
Products that are specific to camellias are also a good way to maintain the soils level of acidity so that the roots of the camellia can access nutrients require for flowering.
4. Too Much Shade for Blooming
Camellias are similar to rhododendrons and azaleas in that they prefer to be under a canopy with dappled light throughout the day or a few hours of morning sun with shade in the afternoon.
Too much shade and camellias tend to grow lots of foliage but display fewer flowers.
In too much sun camellias can suffer from drought or sun burn so some shade is often necessary, particularly in hot climates, whereas in cooler climates with more overcast days and less intense heat camellias can tolerate many more hours of sun so finding the right balance for you climate is key.
If the camellia is in a very shaded area and not flowering, consider cutting some branches in the overhanging canopy to replicate the camellias ideal natural environment or move the camellia to an area of the garden with morning sun and shade in the afternoon to protect it from intense heat.
5. Camellia Flower Buds turned Brown due to Frost damage
The flowering of camellias can depend on seasonal variation as late frosts in the Spring can damage emerging flowers which causes the camellia not to bloom.
Camellias bloom on last years growth and the buds develop in the Summer and flower the following Spring, therefore the potential for camellia to flower is at risk from an early frost in the Fall as the flower buds have not had time to harden off before Winter.
The phenomenon of cold weather damaging flower buds and preventing blooms is particularly common when there is a period of somewhat mild weather followed by an unseasonable cold snap which often turns the flower buds brown.
Planting camellias in a sheltered area such as under a tree canopy or by a structure such as shed, fence or your house can help to mitigate against the risk of frost damage as camellias are more vulnerable in open and windy areas.
Once the flower buds are frost damaged then there is not much you can do to revive them so prevention is better then cure.
The use of a cloche or fleece (available from amazon and garden centers) is an effective way to protect you camellia buds from frost damage overnight, which is useful if a sudden cold snap is forecast which can save your flower buds and ensure your camellia blooms in the Spring.
6. Drought Stress Reduces Flowering
Camellias prefer the soil to be consistently moist (but not saturated) and they are reasonably shallow rooted plants so they can suffer in droughts or in fast draining, dry, sandy soil.
Drought stress, particularly in the Summer can hinder the development of flower buds from which flowers emerge the follow season and limit the time this years flowers display for.
Therefore it is important to ensure that the soil around the roots of the camellia does not dry out completely.
The best practices for preventing drought stress so that the camellia can flower are:
- Planting camellias in soil that has been amended significantly with compost, leaf mould or well rotted manure to help retain moisture.
- Applying a 1 inch layer of mulch around the camellia to further conserve moisture and avoid sunlight directly on the soil which can dry the soil out quickly.
- Provide camellias with some shade in the hot afternoons (morning sun followed by afternoon shade is best) or dappled light of a tree canopy so that the soil does not dry out in the sun.
- Camellias often do not require watering for most of the year (unless they are in the first year of planting) but they do appreciate a generous soak once a week during the hottest and driest weeks of Summer.
With well prepared soil and watering when necessary, your camellia has sufficient moisture for healthy growth, developing flower buds and for flower longevity.
7. Pruning Camellia at the Wrong Time (Removes Flower buds)
Camellias are not necessary prolific growers and much like rhododendrons they do not necessarily require an annual pruning, particularly as this can be detrimental to flowering.
Camellias flower in the Spring and after flowering, in the Summer the flower buds for next years flowers develop.
If you prune the camellia in the late Summer then it is possible that you have cut back all the wood and branches which hosts the developing flower buds, therefore the camellia does not display flowers the following year.
To avoid cutting back the growth which develops the flower buds, prune your camellia (only if necessary) straight after flowering.
If you prune immediately after flowering in early Spring then the camellia has the rest of the growing season to grow more branches which support developing flower buds, however if you leave it too late in the season for pruning then it is likely the buds are already developing and cutting back now would prevent the camellia for blooming the following year.
- The reason for camellia not flowering is mots often because of frost damage or pruning at the wrong time. A late frost can damage developing flower buds and cause the camellia not to bloom.
- Pruning in late Summer can remove the camellias flower buds and cause the camellia not to bloom the following year.
- Drought stress and sandy, poor soil can cause fewer flowers. Camellias prefer rich soil that is consistently moist in order to bloom.
- Too much shade can reduce blooms as camellias flower best in dappled sun light. Too much nitrogen can cause lots of foliage growth but few flowers.