Camellia Workshop

— Written By Peg Godwin and last updated by
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Camellias are a cherished plant in the south. They were brought here from Asia and like to live in the southern heat and humidity and these beautiful plants are drought tolerant. Camellias are not fond of extreme cold and the recent winter has caused damage to many signature plants. Concern is being expressed about saving some of these treasured plants.

Join the Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Lenoir County in a camellia propagation workshop on Thursday, June 21 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The location for the workshop is the Livestock Arena at 1791 Hwy 11/55 in Kinston. The arena is directly beside the newly constructed N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lenior County Center office.

Propagating or producing a new plant from an existing one is a process. It is both art and science and success requires knowledge, skill, manual dexterity, and experience. Propagating camellias with cuttings is quicker and more economical than sexual propagation which requires seeds. It might the only way to get a particular cultivar or a family favorite.

Tim Minch will join us to share his understanding of why, when, and how to propagate camellias. He has gained more than a basic knowledge of plant growth and development, plant anatomy and morphology and plant physiology in his years of gardening. Tim Minch is an avid plantsman, vegetable grower and ornamental gardener. He is currently employed as Grounds Coordinator at Lenoir Community College but has enjoyed working previously as the greenhouse manager at Tryon Palace for over nine years. Our neighbors from Jones County remember when he owned and operated his own greenhouse in the county, known as “Dirty Fingers.”

Tim grew up in Greenville, but in the Air Force, he traveled the world seeing unbelievable flora. He has lived in the states of Washington, Montana, Maine and Germany as well as locally in New Bern, Trenton, and Emerald Isle. Currently, Tim is a member of the Twin Rivers Camellia Club. Camellias are one of his favorite plants.

Using vegetative propagation involves taking vegetative parts of a plant (stems, roots, and/or leaves) and causing them to regenerate into a new plant or, in some cases, several plants. With few exceptions, the resulting plant is genetically identical to the parent plant. Propagation by stem cuttings is the most commonly used method for many woody ornamental plants. Using plant material that is beginning to harden off is recommended. This type of cutting normally is made from mid-June to early July for camellias. The wood is reasonably firm and the leaves reaching mature size. Avoid material with flower buds. Remove any flowers and flower buds when preparing cuttings so the cuttings’ energy can be used in producing new roots rather than flowers. Take cuttings from healthy, disease-free plants.

The fertility status of the stock (parent) plant can influence rooting. Avoid taking cuttings from plants that show symptoms of nutrient deficiency. Conversely, plants that have been fertilized heavily, particularly with nitrogen, also may not root well. The stock plant should not be under water stress. In general, cuttings taken from young plants root quicker than cuttings taken from older, more mature plants. Cuttings from lateral shoots often root better than cuttings from terminal shoots.

Early morning is the best time to take cuttings because the plant is fully turgid. It is important to keep the cuttings cool and moist until they are stuck. An ice chest or a dark plastic bag with wet paper towels may be used to store cuttings. If there will be a delay in sticking cuttings, store them in a plastic bag in a refrigerator.

Terminal bud ends of the stem are best but a long shoot can be divided into several cuttings. Cuttings are generally 4 to 6 inches long. Use a sharp, thin ­bladed pocketknife or sharp pruning shears. Dip the cutting tool in rubbing alcohol or a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water to prevent transmitting diseases from infected plant parts to healthy ones.

Remove the leaves on the lower one-third to one-half of the cutting. On large-leafed plants, the remaining leaves may be cut in half perpendicular to the mid-vein to reduce moisture loss and conserve space in the rooting area.

Maintain high humidity by covering the cuttings with a bottomless milk jug or by placing the container into a clear plastic bag. Cuttings can also be placed in plastic trays covered with clear plastic stretched over a wire frame.

Materials provided for the event will include containers, potting mix, rooting hormone, and various camellia cuttings. Please bring your own cleaned pruners and other camellia cuttings.

Hope you can join us as Tim Minch shares his knowledge with gardeners.