flowering camellias header

How to prune camellias

With glossy, evergreen leaves and pretty flowers that appear in late winter or spring, camellias are an early season star of the garden. Flowers range from white and pink through to deep red, and come in many different forms including single, semi-double and peony. Here’s how to prune your camellias to keep them in good health and perfect shape. 

Different types of camellias

Camellia japonica 'Bonomiana' from T&M
The pink streaked blooms of this pretty shrub appear from March
Image: Camellia japonica 'Bonomiana' from T&M

Many camellias are long-lived and can either be grown in borders or in pots on the patio - a good option if you don’t have the acid soil they prefer. Different varieties bloom at different times: 

  • Camellia sasanqua flowers from late autumn and into winter 
  • Camellia japonica and Camellia × williamsii flower from early spring

When to prune camellias

Camellia 'Yuletide' from T&M
Camellia 'Yuletude' flowers from November to February and should be pruned in spring
Image: Camellia 'Yuletide' from T&M

Camellias don’t need to be regularly pruned - it should only be done if you want to reduce the size of a plant, improve its shape or renovate an old, established shrub.

Although it’s possible to prune at any time of year, it’s best carried out immediately after flowering in spring to avoid cutting off the new growth that will produce the following year’s blooms.

Old shrubs that require rejuvenating should be hard pruned in March, although this will reduce the plant’s flowering potential for several seasons to come. 

How to prune your camellia bush

Camellia 'Brushfield's Yellow' from T&M
With white outer petals and a creamy yellow ruffled centre, this is a popular choice
Image: Camellia 'Brushfield's Yellow from T&M
  • • Young, newly planted camellias can be shaped by cutting back any thin shoots or removing them completely. This will also help to encourage a bushy shrub to form.
  • • Any varieties that have reverted to the parent plant and are producing flowers of a different colour can have those branches removed in spring.
  • • To renovate an old shrub, cut back in March to about 60cm above ground level. This is best done over time, removing a few branches each year. Be warned, they may not start back into growth until mid-summer.

While camellias don’t require regular pruning, they do benefit from light shaping that prevents them from outgrowing their space. Remove any damaged growth and allow air to circulate for a healthy plant. 

Mandy Bradshaw, chatty gardener, gardening expert

Written by: Mandy Bradshaw, the Chatty Gardener

Cotswold-based Garden Media Guild member, Mandy Bradshaw, is also known as the Chatty Gardener. Passionate about gardening and writing, her beginnings are in football reporting for her primary school, and Mesembryanthemum planting with her mother. Winner of the 2018 Property Press Awards 'Garden Journalist of the Year', she writes for not only her own blog but also a range of newspapers, magazines and other gardening and non-gardening sites.

Banner image: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock

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