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Chinese Camellia

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis is a small evergreen leaf from whose leaves tea is made. Camellia sinensis is native to the Indian Subcontinent, Southern China and East and South East Asia. There are literally hundreds of varieties of tea species cultivated, most classified in two groups Indian teas and Chinese teas, each with its own flavours, colours and aromas.

Chinese Camellia, Camellia sinensis, Bonsai
Chinese Camellia, Camellia sinensis, Bonsai

Styles & Sizes: They create a dense medium to large bonsai in most all styles but are by far they are most popular as informal upright and broom styles, allowing them to show off their beautiful pink or white flowers.

Position: In temperate parts of the world they need to be grown indoors over winter. In summers, they love to be grown outdoors, when they need a lot of humidity and light. They are best protected from direct sunlight, as their leaves will scorch if humidity or watering levels are not up to par. Indoors especially, in the short winter days provided addition artificial lighting to ensure that there are at least 12 hours of suitable light. Use a humidity tray to provide the high levels of humidity it needs, and ensure temperatures are above well 15°C every day. Ensure there are not-too-much temperature fluctuations.

Watering: Keep soil moist but not waterlogged. Water early in the morning to ensure the bonsai has enough when it needs it during the day and is able to use it up before nightfall. Overwatering and waterlogging can lead to chlorosis which will cause leaves to turn yellow and fall off.

Feeding: Every two weeks during the growing season and every 6 weeks during dormant periods. Use a balanced organic fertiliser throughout the year and use and an additional dose or two of high nitrogen fertiliser in spring to help with the flush of new growth. They love an acidic soil so use an organic soil acidifier or teaspoon of vinegar to help keep the pH low and prevent chlorosis.

Repotting: Repot every 2 years in late spring when the warmer weather is well settled in. Use a rich well-draining soil mix of loam, grit or sharp sand in equal parts. Conversely, you can use a mixture of Akadama, Pumice, sifted to between 3mm and 6mm, in equal parts.

Pruning: Camellia is best pruned after flowering in early summer. As they set they buds late summer in July for the next season, it is best to prune after flowering. Structural pruning is best carried out at this time too as this will effectively eradicate most or all the flowering buds. Cut back fully extended shoots to leave 3 active leaf nodes.

Wiring: Camellia is best styled with the clip and grow method. If wiring is required it is best wired in autumn when the bonsai is dormant.

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