Growing Abbotsleigh Camellia (Camellia Japonica)

Variety: Camellia japonica
Family: Theaceae
Cultivar: Abbotsleigh
Zones: 7 to 9
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Soil Type: Sandy loam to clay loam
Soil pH: 4.5 to 6.5
Sunlight: Shade to dappled
Watering: Normal to moist
Fertilizer: Flowering shrub and tree fertilizer
Availability: Sold as live, potted plants

When to plant: Plant Abbotsleigh Camellia at any time during the growing season as long as there is no danger from frost. If planting in the fall, plant at least eight weeks prior to the first frost.

Planting Method
CONTAINER: Dig a planting hole twice as wide as the root ball and as deep as the soil in the container. Center the camellia in the planting hole and backfill with soil. Create a watering ring around the perimeter of the planting hole. Once the plant becomes established, you can level out the watering ring. Mulch with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

BALLED AND BURLAPED: If the burlap is synthetic, remove the burlap, as synthetic burlap will not decompose. If the burlap is organic, leave the burlap on the plant. Dig a planting hole twice as wide as the root ball and as deep as the height of the root ball. Center the camellia in the planting hole. Remove any staples or ties holding the burlap on the plant and fold the top of the burlap down far enough so that it is completely covered when you backfill. Backfill with soil. Create a watering ring around the perimeter of the planting hole. The watering ring can be leveled out once the camellia becomes established. Mulch with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

BARE ROOT: Soak bare roots in water for at least eight hours to ensure proper hydration. Dig a planting hole as wide as the spread-out roots and two inches deeper than the discoloration on the stem. The discoloration shows how deep the camellia was previously planted. Create a two-inch mound of soil in the center of the planting hole. Center the camellia on the mound of soil and arrange the roots around the bottom of the planting hole. Fill the hole with water, then backfill with soil. Create a watering ring around the perimeter of the planting hole. Once the plant becomes established, you can level out the watering ring. Mulch with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

Watering
Water with at least an inch of water per week. The soil should be moist to a depth of at least 18 inches, but it should be well-draining enough so that the soil does not get soggy.

Fertilizing
Fertilize with an acidic flowering shrub and tree fertilizer once a year. The best time to fertilize is in the fall. Do a soil test prior to fertilizing. If the soil test shows low or missing nutrients, use a nutrient-specific fertilizer.

Production
Abbotsleigh Camellia is a high-maintenance evergreen landscape shrub that produces pale-green foliage and double, showy, white flowers.

Diseases
Abbotsleigh Camellia is not susceptible to disease.

Pests

  • Aphids: The aphid is a small insect that forms clusters on seedlings and new plant growth. It's pear-shaped body ranges from 1/16- to 3/8-inch long. Aphids spread quickly, feeding on plant juices, which weakens the plant. Signs of infection include honeydew and sooty mold on plants, curling leaves, stunted growth and yellowing of foliage. Remove infected plant matter and keep the garden weed-free. Do not use high-nitrogen fertilizer, as this promotes aphids. If you have a light infestation, you can spray the aphids off the plant with water, then apply insecticidal soaps or pesticides. Aphids will develop a resistance to pesticides, so use them sparingly and as a last resort. If you do not wish to use insecticides or pesticides, you can introduce natural enemies of the aphid, such as lacewings, parasitic wasps or pirate bugs.
  • Scale Insects: The 1/8-inch-long scale insect attaches itself to the leaves and stems of plants. While the males have wings, the females do not, and spend their lives attached to the plant, sucking out juices with their piercing mouth parts. The scale insect excretes honeydew, which causes sooty mold that attracts ants. Cut any infected leaves off the plants. If the stems are also infected, you may have to dispose of the entire plant. You may be able to control them with insecticidal soaps or pesticides. You can also introduce parasitic wasps to your garden, as they are the scale insect's natural enemies. Lady beetles are also natural enemies.
  • Thrips: Out of the 6,000-plus species of thrips, there are five that like to visit garden plants. These narrow-bodied insects are about 1/8-inch long and have a life span of about 45 days. They are commonly found eating foliage, including the stems of plants. They do not like cooler temperatures and will invade a warm greenhouse.  Keep plants well-weeded and use sticky strips to trap thrips. Some pesticides may work, though some only kill the larvae, not adult insects. Natural enemies include lacewings, ladybeetles and pirate bugs.

Cleanup
Prune Abbotsleigh Camellia during the spring and throughout the growing season for dead and decaying wood and plant matter. Pinch the stem tips to encourage foliage growth. Abbotsleigh Camellia responds well to pruning. If the flowers are too dense to open fully, prune this plant for weakened wood.

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