There are many reasons to grow Camellias. As a shrub, it is evergreen and looks great all year round. It is a relatively carefree plant, it actually seems to do better with a little neglect. Then of course, there are the flowers. Depending on which species and cultivars you grow, theoretically you can start having flowers as early as late September, all the way through April and even into May. This article is not going to go into how to grow these beauties, I will save that for another time. I am going to discuss what many people feel is tough love towards the plants.
Anybody that knows me, knows that I am a competitive person. I love a good contest and the camellia show season fills the bill perfectly. So how does tough love fit in?
I rip the flower buds right off the plant!!
I know, "WAIT!? I thought you competed in flower shows?"
I don't rip them all off, just most. It is called disbudding. A camellia will set many flower buds and they (most) will open okay, sometimes smaller, sometimes mishappen. The theory behind disbudding is to send all of that flower energy to fewer buds. The flowers will be bigger and will be able to open wider without it bumping heads with its neighbor.
September is the time to start really doing this, of course there are the early season bloomers that will start showing buds sooner, you can start whenever you start to see the buds. With that being said, you do not want to start too early! The plant will actually produce a second set of buds which will not only take more energy to produce, you have to go through the plant again removing them. I start disbudding about September first and will continue on until the shows I want to compete in are over, then they are free to bloom their little hearts out. I have usually pretty much got them all done by then, but don't tell the plants that.
Let me show you how it is done.
You want to check out your camellia plant for something that looks like this:
Notice the two buds together? Somebody has to go.
I chose the top one. There are a number of ways to decide which one has to go.
First, you need to think about spacing. Is there room for the flower to open completely?
Second, rain, frost and condensation are a flowers enemy. You really don't want them settling onto the flower itself, so, if the flower is facing down, as seen above, that is the one to save. The moisture will run off the back of the bloom, like water off of a ducks back, and not set foot on the inside.
I go through all of my camellias doing this. I know for a fact that I take more flowers off than I leave on, that is why I have to do this when my wife is not looking.
When it comes to the miniature flowers, I may take a few off, but you can actually lose some points if the flower is bigger than the "standard" size. This is only for the miniatures, everything else, the bigger the better. I am also in the camp of taking all of the lateral buds (buds up and down the length of the stem) off and just leaving the terminal bud (the one on the very end of the stem) on.
The easiest, and safest, for the other blooms is to use your thumbnail. Place it on the tip of the bud to remove and depending on which way it is growing, bend it in that direction. It should pop right off. This sounds easy, but, it took me a little while to get used to popping the flowers off.
Mind you, this is mainly for the competitive circuit. If you want a mass of color, completely disregard anything that you have just read. Camellia sasanqua, the fall blooming Camellia is not usually shown as often, mostly because they are considered more of a landscape and rootstock type of camellia. Now before I get all kinds of e-mails, yes, I know that some shows have a sasanqua or species category. Yes, I have some very pretty ones in my own yard, namely Pink Serenade and Yuletide that I love. I also have some 150+ japonicas and reticulatas that are for competing. So I know how pretty the sasanquas are, I just like the show bloomers.
Matter of fact, here is the Pink Serenade......see all the buds I haven't touched yet?
This what the final product usually looks like:
Anyway, like I said earlier, it takes some getting used to ripping those flowers off. It is kind of along the same lines as pruning, it is hard to do and it will benefit the plant, or the flowers, in the long run.
Isn't that what tough love is all about!?!?
If you have any questions about this or any other articles I have written, please let me know. I also would love for you to come check out my The Citrus Guy public figure Facebook page, give me a like and follow me more on my horticultural activities.