Gainesville Camellia Society
Gainesville, Florida

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Camellia Culture Guide

Camellia Care---What to do in-

September October November December January February March April May Summer

What to do in September

Late maturing camellia seeds may be gathered now. Check the branches as well as the ground below. Plant them immediately. Check underneath the leaves for spider mites and scale insects. Whether or not you find any, it is good practice to use a good pesticide such as ethion and oil twice (about a month apart) once the weathers cools a bit.

You should start gibbing (using giberellic acid) now for earlier and larger blooms. A gram of gibbing powder may be ordered from American Camellia Society, One Massee Lane Fort Valley, GA 31030. The cost (including shipping and handling) is about $9.00 per gram. A link to their webstie is on the Camellia Links page.

Disbudding also promotes larger blooms. Never leave two flower buds side by side. Some members remove all lateral buds leaving only the terminal bud on each limb. Do not fertilize until AFTER your plants have finished blooming.

More WHAT TO DO IN SEPTEMBER-----Sandra Williams
Gainesville Camellia Society

Late maturing camellia seed may be gathered now. Check the branches as well as the ground below for ripening seed pods. Plant seeds immediately in a jar three-quarters full of moist vermiculite. Cover jar with lid or saran (with rubber band). Place jar in warm (not hot) place, and check periodically for roots along sides or in bottom of jar. Remove sprouted seedlings and plant in pots. Return unsprouted seeds to jar, replace top, and watch for more roots. Seeds will not all sprout at the same time.

Check camellia plant's leaves for spider mites and scale insects. Scale can be seen on the lower surface of leaves with the naked eye. Spider mites can be on either leaf surface, and a low-power magnifying glass is helpful for spotting these pests. The hot, dry weather we are now experiencing throughout most of Florida is excellent for the development of spider mite populations. Check leaves regularly and be prepared to apply kelthane (3 times at 5 to 7 day intervals) or oil (if the temperature is between 40 and 75 F during application). Kelthane is specifically for mites, but does not affect the unhatched eggs. Oil kills all stages of mites and scales, but the application must be thorough.

You should have been gibbing since Labor Day for earlier and larger blooms. Treat several buds on large bushes at weekly intervals. To promote growth next spring, do not gib more than 1 or 2 buds on small bushes.

It is time to do some disbudding. Leave only one bud at each tip. This will allow for larger flowers which will open completely without being misshaped by a too-close buddy.Disbudding promotes larger blooms. Never leave two flower buds side by side on the tip of a branch. Remove one and leave the other. Some growers remove all interior buds leaving only the terminal bud on each limb. The plant has only so much energy for each bud. If there are fewer buds to open, the plant can supply more energy to each bud. Some varieties set so many buds that none of them will open completely. Also, some varieties will set a large number of buds one year and then a much smaller number the next year. By removing some of the buds as they form, the number of buds that actually open will be more uniform each year. I break some buds off nearly every time I go outside. I don't stay very long: too hot, too many mosquitoes.

Dry weather means dry plants. Soil around camellias planted within the last 2 seasons should not be allowed to dry completely. If you have old, established plants, then watering is not as critical. Water plants deeply. Small amounts of water applied to plants remain in soil near the surface, thus promoting development of roots near the surface. These roots tend to dry out in periods of drought. Thorough watering promotes deep root growth enabling the plant to better handle dry conditions.

Flowers are opened and their size is determined by water pressure in the plant tissues. Therefore, when flowers are opening, lots of water is essential for full size flowers.

We all need to be watching the water level closely. We lost some plants this spring when it was so dry. Even having the sprinkler on daily was not enough. The air was just so dry that the soil would not absorb the water, it ran right through the pots. Then when it started raining, we had to cut the sprinklers off to keep them from being too wet. Now it is dry again. It has been a difficult summer for all plants. In our travels we have seen huge irrigation systems keeping crops growing and across the road crops that just dried up. As my grandfather, the farmer, used to say, "The biggest gamblers in the world are farmers." We are farmers on a much smaller scale as we try to grow our Camellia plants.

What to do in October

Spray this month to control scale insects and spider mites. If the weather is still hot and you have a heavy spider mite infestation you might consider using Kelthane. If you can wait until the weather cools, you may use ethion and oil. Repeat the treatments in two to four weeks. This is an excellent time to cut any airlayers that you might have started last Spring. October can have weather as hot as our Summer but much drier. Make sure that your plants get sufficient water during the Fall. Camellias do not show visible signs of drought stress (wilted leaves) until they are very thirsty. Plants that are drought stressed at this time will have smaller and/or malformed blooms.

More WHAT TO DO IN OCTOBERSandra Williams
Gainesville Camellia Society

Gibbing: Application of gibberellic acid to camellias produces different results depending on variety and flower form. For instance, the Tomorrow family opens flowers reluctantly unless the weather is cool. In warm weather, gibbed buds of the Tomorrow family will swell, show some color, and then in most instances fall to the ground unopened. Also, the singles and semi-doubles are easier to open with gibberelic acid in warm weather than the more heavily petalled forms such as the formal doubles. Whenever gib is used, in warm or cool weather, lots of water is essential to enable the blooms to open to their maximum size.

You should have been gibbing since Labor Day for earlier and larger blooms. Treat several buds on large bushes at weekly intervals. To promote growth next spring, do not gib more than 1 or 2 buds on small bushes.

What to do in November

Continue your spray program to control scale and spider mites that you started in October unless you are already finished. Make sure that your plants get sufficient water if the Fall is dry.

What to do in December

Remove spent blooms from under the bushes. This will help prevent the spread of petal blight (a fungal disease that discolors camellia petals).

If a sudden cold front threatens a hard freeze you should make sure that your plants are well watered. Most cold damage of Camellia plants is due to strong, cold winds drying the tissues. A well hydrated palnt that is protected from north winds will fare much better. Bloom buds that are still tight will not normally be damaged by a typical Gainesville freeze but open (or nearly open) blooms can be severely damaged. Much af the damage can be avoided if the blooms are covered so that frost does not settle on them.

What to do in January

In January you mostly will enjoy your Camellia bushes without much work. Bring lots of blooms to our Camellia Show in the Oaks Mall on the first weekend of January. The Ocala Show is usually the third weekend of the month. Some members start to graft new varieties in late January. Remember to remove spent blooms from under your bushes.

What to do inFebruary

February is considered by many to be the best time to graft Camellias in Gainesville. Also continue to remove spent blooms from under your bushes. If some of your bushes have finished blooming you might want to change the mulch at this time. Some mebers start airlayering their bushes during February with good success. Airlayering camellias from February to May works very well here.

What to do in March

As your bushes finish blooming you should begin fertilizing them. If your soil pH is too high (a tell-tale sign is yellowing of the leaves along the veins-yellow splotches on varigated varieties is simply a manifestation of the virus that is varigating the petal and is NOT a sign of too high a soil pH) you probably need to use a fertilizer that acidifies the soil. In this case any azalea/camellia special or blueberry special will work. If you soil pH is OK then a normal balanced fertilizer with minor elements is adequate. In cases where the leaves are really yellowed you may apply chelated iron to the foliage of the plant. Camellias cannot take iron in its usual form from the soil if the soil pH is too high (resulting in yellowed leaves) but it can take chelated iron even when the soil pH is elevated. Consider the application of chelated iron as a quick fix and make sure to take care of the real problem - wrong soil pH.

When you Camellias begin to flush out with new growth do not be alarmed to see leaves on the plant turn yellow and brown and fall off. This is the time when Camellias shed their three year old leaves.

Some members treat their plants with systemic insecticides (like Cygon) at this time to protect the new growth. The difference between a head table bloom and a runner-up is often the condition of the foliage. Aphids, caterpillars and beetles tend to be the biggest pests now.

What to do in April

In April you should be concerned with the control of mites and scale. Spider mites flourish during hot, dry weather -the kind of weather that is very typical of late Spring in Gainesville. Ethion and oil is an effective control for both, especially if the weather is not too hot. Cygon is a good systemic control for scale and offers some control over spider mites. Kelthane, now back on the market, is an excellent miticide and can be used in hot weather. Another method of control of spider mites is very vigorous sprying of the bush, especially the undersides of the leaves. You can mechanically remove the mites from the plants by this method. Insecticidal soaps can also be used but some members have reported serious plant damage when using this method.

Make you first application of fertilizer now if you haven't already. Once the first flush has hardened off you may make a second application.

What to do in May

In May the weather is typically hot and there is little rain. Make sure to water your plants but be careful not to drown them! Camellias do not like wet feet. May is usually the time to make the second application of fertilizer. Be vigilant for pest problems.

What to do in Summer

In Summer keep a careful eye out for pests. Spider mites tend to be a problem in the early, dry part of the summer and less of a problem after the Summer rains become regular.

Irrigation is especially important before the Summer rains begin. Do not let you plants go until they show signs of drought stress. By then it may be too late. Keep your plants well mulched but remember to keep the mulch away from the trunks.

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