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Growing Camellia Seeds

Camellia seeds are easy to grow as long as the seeds are never allowed to dry out. The seeds must be stored in moist (not wet) paper towels, sealed in plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator. Seeds left at room temperature will rapidly dry out and become less viable. I usually stratify the seeds, which means I store them in a cool and moist condition for 3-5 months. Stratification mimics the winter so that the plants emerge in the correct season.

OUTDOORS

Seeds can be planted directly outdoors where you would like the plants to grow. A weed-free seedbed should be prepared and marked so it will not be disturbed. Plant the seeds about half an inch deep and allow them to germinate as they are ready. The seeds can be planted in the fall or spring, and they will emerge at the appropriate time. It may be necessary to protect the seeds from animals with a screen (mice are particular fanciers of Camellia seeds). The seeds send a root straight down when planted outdoors, which is good for hardiness. These seedlings can almost take care of themselves; try and keep the weeds from competing too much and some water during dry periods is helpful. They can be transplanted the following winter, if you wish to move them.

INDOORS

Seeds planted indoors should go into a small pot or tray with well-draining soil. I used a soil mixture of 2/3 aged pine bark and 1/3 perlite with the lowest recommended rate of slow release fertilizer mixed in. 3-5 seeds can be planted in a 4" pot, or more seeds can be planted in a tray. I plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep and keep moist, but not wet. Temperatures of 40dF to 75dF are food for germination, although higher temperatures will encourage faster emergence. A bright window should be enough light. I would put the pot in partial shade or filtered light if outdoors. I usually transplant these after the plants form a few leaves. The roots system can be tangled and it is OK to cut off the long, developing tap root to prevent coiling of the roots. When weather is above freezing, I would put the plants outdoors in partial sun. Seedlings in pots are watered when the soil begins to dry out, but this depends on the conditions such as atmospheric humidity and temperature. Light fertilization in spring and early summer helps encourage growth. It is possible to have seedlings bloom in 2 years, but usually, it takes 4-5 years. Small seedlings can be overwintered the following winter by sinking the pot into the soil in milder areas or keeping in a cool, bright location indoors.