Transplanting a camellia

Vonney(VIC Aust)May 15, 2005

Last year in August I moved a mature standard camellia japonica (must be at least 10 years old). It was a beautiful tree that flowers magnificently each year. However in its new spot it receives far too much sun and is exposed to direct sun for most of the day in the Summer. And it was really hot on occasions this last summer in Melbourne.

Its leaves turned yellowish and there are dry gray borders on many of them. And the leaves are thinning out. It has set buds for Spring so there seems to be some action still.

I have to move it and replace it with a better screening tree because of troublesome neighbours. Also it obviously doesn't like where it is anyway.

Question is - is it going to like being moved a second time and will the leaves recover? - or do I have to prune it right back and hope it will shoot new, nice green and glossy leaves like it used to have? I will ensure that it is shaded from the heat of the day for most of the day in another location.

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Hi Vonney,
If your camelia is in the wrong place for you and also isn't doing too well by the sounds of it, what have you got to lose by moving it again?
Just make sure if you do that it doesn't flower for this season and the next by constantly debudding it. Having blooms takes a lot of energy from the plant. Also make sure you keep the water up to it.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 3:18AM
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Vonney(VIC Aust)

Thanks Deejaus - I guess you're right - nothing to lose really - but it's going to be a hell of a job to move it! So I would really like it to work! Do you think the leaves will "rejuvenate"or do I have to prune drastically in the hope of nice new ones growing?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 3:28AM
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I would be very wary of pruning the camellia - they take so long to re-grow. And, definitely, don't prune off the top.

Wait another month or two until it's a bit cooler. In the meantime, prepare your new site. Dig in some organic matter and a light sprinkle of blood and bone to compensate for the nitrogen used up by the decomposition of the organic stuff. Keep moist while you are waiting to transplant.

If you need to break up clay, use gypsum, rather than lime.

When the time comes, transplant from damp soil (give the camellia a couple of really good waterings a few days beforehand to make sure the water penetrates) and get as big a root ball as possible. This shouldn't be too difficult - the roots probably haven't extended too far since the last move.

When you are ready replant in the new position, have a few supplies on hand and apply as per directions once you have planted.

1. Seasol - to promote root growth and condition the soil.

2. A product such as Envy or Stressguard - spray it on to protect the camellia from losing moisture through its leaves.

3. Something to prevent root rot, like Phosacid 200.

(On second thoughts, it might not be such a bad idea to apply these products now to help the plant along in preparation for the move.)

If the camellia is tall, top heavy or in a windy spot, stake well, using two or three stakes, to prevent movement and subsequent breakage of new roots.

Mulch well (I use pine needles on my camellias and they seem very happy) and maintain moisture. Cover the camellia with some shade cloth for a a month or so.

Don't fertilise at this stage. Wait until you see some new growth and the plant looks established.

When I moved house some years ago, all my camellias moved with me and settled in very well.

I do hope yours will be happier in its new spot.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 4:37PM
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Vonney(VIC Aust)

Thanks for all that useful advice Wombat - if I dont prune, how do I get my nice deep glossy leaves back?'Will new leaves slowly take the place of the struggling ones? Should I debud? - blast, this will be the second year I have had to sacrifice my flowers!!!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 6:06PM
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Camellias grow new leaves anyway, and the old ones fall off. But the memory cells can't dredge up the "when" bit. I think the old ones might last a couple of seasons before they fall off.

But all going well, you should get lots of shiny, new leaves soon. Has it put out new leaf buds yet?

I know you should disbud to allow the shrub to put its energy into new growth and roots. But it is hard, isn't it. Perhaps you could compromise - remove every second bud perhaps. Or third.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 1:09AM
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Vonney(VIC Aust)

Thanks for all the positive thoughts Wombat. You have filled me with hope! I will give it a go, talk to it gently every day, and just hope that it likes it's new spot better than the HOT exposed one it has had to endure all Summer. I must say it is starting to look a bit less harrassed already now that the cooler weather has arrived. (I could be imagining it, but the leaves look a little greener these days). However I know it's not a soil problem as the sasanqua camellias in the same area look just fine. But the lady at the nursery told me that it will not survive in the long term if I dont move it to a more sheltered/shady spot.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 1:26AM
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Camellias seem to have a reputation for being a bit finicky but, once they are established, they seem to be incredibly hardy.

I have one which came with the house. Previous owners were not gardeners, so it could well have been planted before they bought the house in the early 1960's. The trunk is huge.

This camellia is in full sun, on the northern side of our corner block. We are on top of a hill - extremely stony over a clay base, and very windy. The sort of site which shouldn't appeal to any camellia. It flowers heavily over late winter. Unfortunately, many of the flowers are badly affected by frost but the blooms within the foliage are protected.

It had been pruned to a sort of ball shape, like the other shrubs, which I detest. Other than removing dead wood, I haven't pruned it at all. But it took about 6 or 7 years to grow another leader (but that may have had something to do with the plumber ripping out the side of the trunk to install a new storm water line right next to it). We have been in drought for the past 3 years and the only water it gets is its meagre share of the bath/laundry water but it has produced yet another fine crop of buds.

I have planted or transplanted a number of camellias on the southern and eastern sides of the house and they, too, have coped well with the drought. Ever the optimist, I've recently planted another two - more bucketing - and have planted some seeds.

The products I recommended will help your camellia to physically get over the stress of the move. And keep up the sweet talk to cure the emotional damage.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 5:53PM
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Vonney(VIC Aust)

Wombat, my reply is on a new message (by mistake) a bit further up the list!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 6:39PM
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I have a williamsii and I think it's dying. Its getting morning sun and semi shade and the label doesn't say if it is a japonica or sansqua. It has buds but only two leaves and the stem looks very dry, grey brown. It is in a pot.
Please help urgently. The one beside it, elegans is doing so well though. The soil feels moist and I water every second day. I gave it some food last week as it was doing so well but tend to be heavy handed. Am I being too kind?
I wam wondering should I place it another pot (as the saucer seems to retain water and smells at times) and trim it and remove buds would that help? Should I plant it out into a shade part of garden with morning sun? I really don't want to lose it. Help please.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 8:27PM
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Maybe you are being a little too kind. The first thing I would do is repot it (or put it in the garden) with all new soil. If it has been sitting in stagnant water the roots could be starting to rot and the soil will most likely be sour. Most plant do NOT like wet feet. Prune off the buds as well. Water in with some Seasol to help the roots recover.
By the way, the C. williamsii is a cross between C. japonica and C. saluensis.
Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 11:50PM
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Hi all
In regard to earlier post about dying camellia, I took it and the other one (doing well) out of pots and the soil in both was saturated. Disinfected the pots and replaced wet potting mix with good quality potting mix, knocked the buds off the one that was ill,gave it a little trim and water and gave both some sugarcane mulch.
Lets hope the ill one improves and the good one keeps going well. Thought I'd better get right on to it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 3:10AM
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The williamsi died but the other one seems to be doing really well. I have placed another one near side of house so hope it does alright. I figure I am always going to lose some plants, it can't be helped.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 7:50PM
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It's a shame that you lost one Jan, but good luck with the other. We live and learn don't we? Particularly so with never stop learning.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 8:58PM
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I have five camellia's closely spaced along a short driveway. They have been in this position for close on 30 years. They are beautiful trees but not ideally placed in our current situation. I now have the ability to transplant them into a bed and lawn setting, but that will not be ready for at least a month.
Given the time of year, can I take them out and bag the root ball (s) until I can get them into the ground?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 6:54PM
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