Most camellias grow and produce better flowers in partial (50 to 70%) shade. Plants located in full sun can become less dormant during warm periods of the winter. Plants in a northern or western exposure, or otherwise protected from intense morning sun will usually tolerate more cold weather than those with an eastern or southern exposure. Choose a planting site with well-drained soil. Do not plant where shade trees with shallow root systems will compete with camellias for nutrients and water.
Camellias will grow in most well-drained, acid soils. A soil pH (degree of acidity or alkalinity) of 5.5 - 6.5 is best. A soil test made before planting will tell you what is needed to bring the soil to the desired pH and fertility level. Practically all soils need additional organic matter before planting. A mix of 50% soil and 50% humus (peat moss, leaf mold, pine bark, sawdust or cow manure) is recommended. This provides improved fertility of the soil and also improves drainage.
Camellias are generally planted in the late fall through the early spring although with proper care they may be set out any month of the year. Adequate moisture is a necessity until the roots become well established in the soil. The newly developed roots will then provide enough moisture for the plant to start growth when spring arrives. Allow a minimum of five feet between plants, preferably more, when planting. The following steps should be followed when planting a camellia:
1. Dig a hole at least two feet wider than the root ball.
2. Leave soil in the center of the hole undisturbed to prevent settling, as illustrated. (Fig 1)
3. Place the root ball on column of soil. The top of ball should be slightly above soil level. When planting a container grown plant, brush away the soil from the root ball and loosen up the roots to allow better penetration into the soil.
4. Fill the hole around the root ball with a mixture of top soil and organic matter.
5. Build a berm of soil around the plant three feet in diameter to prevent water from running off.
6. Mulch around the plant with pine straw or other organic matter .
7. Water well after planting and soak soil about once a week during dry weather.