How to Prune Camellias

2 Materials
1 Hour

Camellias, or the winter rose, are beautiful additions to the winter landscape. Knowing how to prune camellias keeps them healthy and producing beautiful blooms!

Camellias, though fairly low maintenance, do need to be pruned to keep them healthy, but require very little maintenance aside from a yearly pruning. Follow these camellia pruning tips and get the most from this beautiful and popular evergreen shrub.

When to Prune:

Camellias should be pruned immediately after they are finished blooming, which varies based on where you live. For those in the southeast, this could be as early as February, but those in more northern climates could prune as late as May. 

While the shrub can technically be pruned any time during the year, you may be removing buds and the shrub won’t have as many blooms if you prune too late after blooming. So, if you definitely want to enjoy your winter roses the following year, definitely plan to prune right after blooming has finished. 

How to Prune:

Use sharp snips and prune off the ends of branches to give the camellia a desired shape. If you are happy with the size of the shrub, only snip off about an inch of the branch ends. If you want the shrub smaller, prune off 3-4 inches of the branch ends. For more of a "tree" look for your camellia, take off the lower branches, leaving one main trunk. This is a beautiful look if your camellia is part of a flower bed with other low-lying bushes. 

Also take off any unproductive or dead branches that may be present.

Hard Pruning

Camellias live for decades, trust me… we have some, and the larger cultivars may need a hard pruning every decade to rejuvenate them. If you have an older camellia that is looking straggly and not producing many blooms, give it a hard pruning by cutting the entire shrub back to 2-3 feet tall. While it may seem like you’ve killed your precious camellia, fear not. They’re a hardy plant, and ours have come back just as green and glossy as ever. This same hard pruning also works well for  old and leggy azaleas. You can see in the image below, a full camellia bush on the left, and a leggy bush on the right that needs a hard pruning. 

Pruning keeps camellias looking their best, producing the most blooms possible and keeps the evergreen shrub healthy. For all the beauty that camellias give off, I figure I can fit time in for a bit of pruning to help them look their best. And the bonus is you'll have beautiful blooms each winter to bring indoors and use to brighten up your living spaces. Enjoy!

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  • Sandy O'Konek
    on Feb 24, 2019

    Thanks, I've been trying to find this information! We did 2 years of renovations on the house/property we bought and I have 5 of these, and one is a humongous camellia, like 15 ft tall and 12 ft across. It may be 2 or 3 main stalks. It has just finished blooming and I wanted to decrease the size and pull out some vines that have worked their way in. It has literally hundreds of blooms on it every Jan (I'm in SC). Your post answered all my questions!

  • Sandy O'Konek
    on Feb 24, 2019

    Here is a photo of it!

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