Camellia Fertilizer Info: When And How To Fertilize Camellias

Camellia japonica 'Ada Piper'
Image by PeterEtchells

By Jackie Carroll

Giving your camellia the right amount of fertilizer at the proper time makes the difference between a shrub that thrives and one that merely survives. Follow the camellia fertilizer tips and information in this article to grow the best camellias on the block.

When to Fertilize Camellias

The best time to fertilize camellias is in the spring after the flowers fade. Before fertilizing camellia plants, pick off all the faded flowers from the shrub and clean up fallen flowers from the ground around the shrub. This keeps the bush looking neat and prevents the formation of seeds. Seed formation drains energy from the plant and limits growth. Removing the flowers also helps control blight, which is a serious problem for camellias.

You can fertilize camellias again in midsummer. Fertilizing results in a flush of new growth that is sensitive to cold temperatures, so fertilize at least two months before the first fall frost to give the new growth time to harden. Otherwise, tender new twigs and branch tips may suffer frost damage.

How to Fertilize Camellias


Pull back the mulch before fertilizing camellia plants to help prevent runoff. Camellias don’t need much fertilizer, and too much nitrogen can burn the leaves and cause them to drop off. Spread 1/2 to 1 pound of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer over the root zone. Scratch the fertilizer into the top inch or so of soil with a garden rake and then replace the mulch. Water deeply to help the fertilizer work its way into the soil.

You can also use special fertilizers formulated specifically for azalea and camellia feeding, but only on well established landscape plants and never on container plants. Camellias like a soil pH between 4.5 and 6.5, and azalea and camellia fertilizer acidifies the soil as it feeds the plant. Different brands of these special fertilizers vary in the percentage of nutrients, so read the label and follow the instructions for the brand you choose.

Pale, yellow leaves that drop from the plant are symptoms of insufficient fertilizer as well as soil with a pH too high. Check the pH of the soil before assuming that your camellias need more fertilizer.

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