Plant Species InformationPruning

Camellia japonica pruning: timing and technique

By December 13, 2017 No Comments

I heard recently about a case where one landscape maintenance foreman pruned a lot of stuff on his site. Including Camellia japonica full of flower buds. The owner loves her Camellia and she was extremely unhappy about losing so many buds to needless pruning. Oops.



Camellia japonica



Pruning involves correct technique and timing. Normally we use hand snips or power shears and both are fairly easy to use. I prefer to use hand snips whenever possible because they are quiet.

Timing depends on the specific shrub or tree in question and thus requires plant-specific knowledge. That is both exciting and scary. All top horticulture professionals have a lot of plant-specific knowledge which takes time and experience to acquire.

December request

Then this week I helped with the last service of the season at a Port Coquitlam site. And there it was again. Another Camellia japonica and a passionate owner used to enjoying her flower show. And I was ready.

The timing of the request was way off. December is not the right time to prune Camellia japonicas. The only thing I really power shear in December is cedar hedges (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’).

The proper pruning time for Camellia japonica is in spring, right before bud break, according to my Timber Press book “Essential pruning techniques”.

Camellias don’t really need pruning but this specimen had several shoots sticking up and the owner wanted them pruned. But only those shoots. So I hand snipped all of the shoots down to a bud. It was easy and it didn’t take much time. Power shearing would have been slightly faster but the shredding that occurs is unsightly. Hand snipping works perfectly in this case.



The task was to remove the long top shoots which don’t sport any buds. I made the cuts down to the first bud I encountered.



This is the after shot. The long shoots are gone and very few buds were lost in the operation. Any additional pruning will happen in spring, just before bud break.


Camellia japonicaed

Camellia flowers are stunning and can be cut for home vases. You can see why owners would get upset over losing this kind of show.



Remember to pick-up plant-specific knowledge so not everything on your site or garden is power sheared at one time. Camellia japonica should be pruned in spring, just before bud break; if you must prune it.

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