Overwintering hardy camellias in Toronto



I bought several hardy camellias (2 ft to 5 ft) this Spring. I planted them in the pots for now. Do you have any suggestions to overwinter them in Toronto? BTW, I saw there are lots of flower buds now.

Thanks and Regards,


Congratulations on getting your camellias to flower.

For decades horticulturists in the North have tried growing southern camellias, often unsuccessfully. The discovery of C.oleifera along with an extensive breeding program that was established at the U.S. National Arboretum in the late 1970s incorporated the cold hardiness of C.oleifera with the elegant flowers of the most widely standard varieties resulting in a range of both Spring and Fall flowering varieites.

There are some basic principles for growing camellias in cold climates:

  • Plant camellias in the Spring rather than in the Fall. Spring planting gives the plants a full growing season before the onset of winter.  (However, I did read about people planting them in July so go ahead and try it.)
  • Avoid early morning winter sun which can cause leaf burn
  • Mulch with pine needles or pine bark to a depth of 3-4″
  • Camellias prefer slightly acidic well drained soil similar to azaleas or rhododendrons.
  • Do not plant camellias too deep. The top of the media in the container should be level, or slightly above the surrounding ground.

The book Beyond the Camellia Belt by Dr. William Ackerman gives advice on succeeding with camellias in cold climates.