Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Growing/cultivating Camellia sinensis(Tea Tree) plant. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Growing/cultivating Camellia sinensis(Tea Tree) plant.
Category: Science > Agriculture and Farming
Asked by: jeff_jackson-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 10 Sep 2005 13:08 PDT
Expires: 10 Oct 2005 13:08 PDT
Question ID: 566527
Hello, I recently tried to grow some <i>Camellia sinensis</i>(Tea
tree) seeds that I bought from in a pot in my backyard.  I tried
researching it myself, and I know that Michigan is way too cool of a
climate in the winter to grow this subtropic region plant, but I
thought the seeds would still germinate in the summer.  I also read
that they can be cultivated inside.

My problem is that of the four seeds I planted in my long pot of soil,
none of them germinated.  I got excited upon seeing trees sprouting
and i let them grow, but they ended up just being Cottonwood trees
that must have just drifted into the pot from all around my
neighborhood (we have a lot of them).

So I guess my question is the basics about cultivating a <i>Camellia
sinensis</i> shrub.  For example:

how deep should I put the seed(s) in the soil?

how much and how often should i water them?

I read that they like slightly acidic soil with well drainage, how do
i get a soil that's right for <i>Camellia sinensis</i> plants?

How big of a pot should i use at first?  how big of a pot should i use
when i have to move it into a larger one?

How often should i water it once it's growing?

how much sunlight does it need?

etc etc.  anything else you think would be useful would be appreciated

I'll have more questions for you guys hopefully in about 3 or 4 years
when i can start harvesting the leaves.  Until then, thank you very
much for your help.
Subject: Re: Growing/cultivating Camellia sinensis(Tea Tree) plant.
Answered By: crabcakes-ga on 10 Sep 2005 15:11 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello jeff_jackson-ga,

   Camillia species originated primarily in Japan and China.
Apparently, growing this species of camellia from seed is very
difficult. Cloning from an established bush is recommended.

?All species of camellia originated in Asia; mostly in Japan and
China. Camellia species are still found there in the wild today.?

?Young plants are raised from cuttings obtained from a mother bush and
they are  carefully rooted and cared for in special nurseries until
they are 1 to 2 years of age. The mother bush is carefully selected
for propagation based on individual properties and yield. The tea
plants can then be transplanted out in the tea fields.  This process 
is known as cloning.  Tea can also be grown from seed, however, due to
the degree of  difficulty, cloning is the most widely used method of
cultivating tea.  Tea bushes are planted from three to four feet apart
and planted in rows which follow the natural contour of the landscape.
Tea is also grown on specially prepared terraces to help irrigation
and to prevent soil erosion.?

Consider a greenhouse if you don?t live in a correct weather zone:
?The tea shrub is hardy to Zone 8 (The country is broken up into
'zones' with similar temperature and weather patterns. Zone 8 is
mid-west to southern USA). If you don't live in these areas, don't
fret. You could try growing Camellia sinensis in a greenhouse, or in a
pot that you can bring indoors during cold winters.?

?For planting, Camellia sinensis likes well-drained and sandy soil
that is on the acidic side. If you are going to grow your tea in a
container, add some sphagnum moss to the potting mix. You'll need some
patience, too. Your plant should be around 3 years old before you
start harvesting leaves.?

?Plant seeds immediately in a jar three-quarters full of moist
vermiculite. Cover jar with lid or saran (with rubber band). Place jar
in warm (not hot) place, and check periodically for roots along sides
or in bottom of jar. Remove sprouted seedlings and plant in pots.
Return unsprouted seeds to jar, replace top, and watch for more roots.
Seeds will not all sprout at the same time.?

?Better seeds from seed orchards are planted in nursery or at stake,
protected from sun and wind. At first, seedlings should be shaded.?
?Camellia sinensis, a shrublike evergreen plant, is grown in tropical
climates that provide a combination of hot and cool temperatures and
heavy rainfall. Tea plants can be grown at sea level, but the best
teas are cultivated at altitudes between 3000 and 7000 feet. Wild tea
bushes grow to 50 feet or more; commercially grown tea plants are
pruned to about four or five feet high so that pickers can reach the
top leaves."

"Like fine wine, the quality, flavor, and aroma of tea is influenced
by its surroundings. Soil, climate, temperature, rainfall, and
altitude all contribute to the unique characteristics of each plant
and leaf. Although tea is now grown in about fifty countries, the
finest teas are grown on tea estates or plantations, called gardens,
in China, Taiwan (Formosa), Japan, India, and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
Cameroon, Kenya, and Nepal also produce high-quality teas.?

?They love warm wet summers and moderately cold dry winters, but can
prosper surprisingly well in a range of adverse climatic conditions,
tolerating dry summers and wet winters. Frost hardiness is -5C (25F)
in pots and about -15 to -20C ( 0 to 5F) in open ground. Research is
presently done on hybrids with improved cold-hardiness.?

?In northerly areas, where the plants will be near the limit of their
cold tolerance, spring planting is best. The site should afford
protection in winter from strong winds and morning sun. When planting,
add a generous amount of humus such as compost, leaf mold, or coarse
peat to the soil. Be careful not to plant too deeply; as with azaleas
and rhododendrons, the base of the stem should be slightly higher than
the surrounding soil.

 A two- to four-inch layer of mulch is important to help the soil
retain moisture and to minimize alternate freezing and thawing in
winter. During its first season, water a new plant thorougly once a
week unless there has been at least one inch of rain. If the winter is
a dry one, watering may also be necessary during mild spells.

 Camellias are not heavy feeders, so fertilizer should be used
sparingly. An acidic fertilizer may be applied in early spring and
followed by a second light application in June.

 Plants may be pruned to remove weak or dead branches, to control size
or leggy growth, or to renew the vigor of older plants. Heavy pruning
is best done in spring, before the plants have begun to produce new

?Camellia seedpots mature in autumn. ? ?Camellia seeds should be sowed
immediately after harvest, their germinating capability declines if
kept dry. During this process, the embryo shrinks and an air space
inside the seed coat occurs. These seeds float in water and indicate
reduced germination capability (however, some of them can still
germinate). For storage, put fresh Camellia seeds into a plastic bag
together with a moist paper towel, and keep it in the refridgerator at
about 5C. According to the people at Camellia Forest Nursery, the
germinating power will sustain up to a year under this condition.
Seeds of C. sinensis, however, decay more rapidly inspite of this
procedure, they say. I got their seeds and found that C. japonica,
oleifera and sasanqua had a germination success of 90% 10 month after

 ?As far as we know, it is the only tea growing effort in the United
States, except for near Charleston, SC where tea has been growing off
and on for about 400 years.

At this time, Hawaii is the only State growing vanilla, cacao, coffee
and tea (except for SC on tea) and the Big Island is the only one
growing all four.?

Some Camellia FAQs, including:
? Can I raise Camellia plants from seed? 
Certainly you can. However, be aware that it takes 4 to 20 years for
the unexperienced grower to first flower a seedling. In addition, the
result is very likely disappointing if compared with named cultivars.
Take very fresh seeds (out of the seed pot) and put them in a plastic
bag in moist peat at a heat of 25C. Transplant into substrate when
they show the shoot (leaves still unfolded), normally 2 to 6 weeks


?Can I grow my own tea? 
Yes. Growing Camellia sinensis is quite easy. You can buy the plant or
seed at most Camellia nurseries. However, making your own tea is a
different question. The plant has to grow in a certain climate, and
harvesting, drying and fermenting of young leaves is a science of its
own. Nevertheless you can try, and if your brand is competitive to
commercial names, start a business and make a lot of money.?

 ?C. sinensis is a tropical evergreen that thrives in warm, humid
climates and loves the high life?elevations of up to 6,000 feet. Left
to its own devices, it can grow to 30 feet or more, but in cultivation
the plant is pruned to bush size. This serves a double purpose: it
encourages the sprouting of young leaves, which are high in
polyphenols, while allowing harvesters easy access to the tender new
growth (the so-called "flush").?

?Cultivation details
Prefers a woodland soil but thrives in a warm open well-drained loam
if leafmould is added[1, 11, 200]. A calcifuge plant, preferring a pH
between 5 and 7[11, 200]. Prefers the partial shade of a light
woodland or a woodland clearing[166, 200]. Forms grown in this country
are slow-growing[219]. Tea is reported to tolerate an annual
precipitation of 70 to 310cm, an average annual temperature range of
14 to 27C and a pH in the range of 4.5 to 7.3[269].

This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it
tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10c[200]. It prefers a
wet summer and a cool but not very frosty dry winter[200].

The fragrant flowers are very attractive to insects, particularly moths[219]. 

Plants are not very self-compatible, self-fertilized flowers produce
few seeds and these are of low viability[200].

A very ornamental plant[1], it is widely cultivated in tropical and
warm temperate areas for its leaves which are used to make China
tea[1]. There are many named varieties[183] and new hardier forms are
being produced in China for growing in colder areas of the
country[260]. The Chinese form, known as 'Hseh-ch'a', is said to grow
in areas within the snow limit on the mountains of Lingchiangfu in
Yunnan province[178].

The sub-species C. sinensis assamica. (Mast.)Kitam. is a larger plant,
growing up to 17 metres tall. It is a more tropical form of the
species, is intolerant of frost and does not succeed outdoors in
Britain[11, 260].?

Seed - can be sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse[113]. Stored
seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and the hard
covering around the micropyle should be filed down to leave a thin
covering[78, 113, 138]. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at
23c[138]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are
large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the
greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their
permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall and give them
some protection from winter cold for their first year or three
outdoors[K]. Seedlings take 4 - 12 years before they start to produce

There are approximately 500 seeds per kilo[269]. 

Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, August/September
in a shaded frame. High percentage but slow[78].

Cuttings of firm wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, end of June in a
frame[11, 78]. Keep in a cool greenhouse for the first year[11].

Leaf-bud cuttings, July/August in a frame.?

?Culture: Camellia sinensis need full sun to part shade. They prefer a
well drained, neutral to slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter
(2 parts peat moss or compost to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand or
perlite). The root hairs are very fine, so the plant can not be
allowed to dry out completely. Increase watering when the plant is
actively growing and when the plant is in bloom. Fertilize every 2-3
weeks in the spring through fall, use a fertilizer for acid loving
plants diluted to  the strength recommended on the label. Repot every
2-4 years in late winter or early spring.
Propagation: Camellia sinensis are propagated by cutting or seed. Soak
seed in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. Hardwood cuttings
should be taken from winter to summer, treated with rooting hormone
and with bottom heat of 72 degrees recommended. Rooting is slow.?

?Culture-wise, this plant needs the same type of conditions as do
azaleas and rhododendrons, but it has a reputation in some parts of
the country for fussiness. Finely rooted, it needs plenty of moisture
but will object to any drainage problems. Although it's grown
commercially in full sun, many experts recommend giving it open, high
shade?not the shade of deciduous trees with competitive root systems,
but under tall pines.?

?Two strains of C. sinensis var. sinensis?one Korean, the other
Chinese?seem to be best adapted to moist, temperate climates. Hardy to
Zone 6b, those varieties have been reported doing well in New Jersey
and warmer parts of Pennsylvania. Other varieties, namely a
large-leathery-leaf form of C. sinensis and the pink-flowered 'Rosea'
(both hardy to 7a), and C. sinensis var. ptilophylla and a variety
from Guangzhou (both hardy to 7b) can better withstand drier climates.
Although Camellia sinensis is supposed to be able to do well in Zone
9, temperatures may sometimes get too warm. "In its native countries,
it usually grows in highlands or in foothills, not in moist, tropical
areas," says Stephen Garton, extension specialist in nursery and
landscape horticulture in Knoxville, Tennessee. "The best growth
occurs when the temperatures stay in the mid 60's at night [during the
growing season], but our night temperatures stay high, especially in
Zone 9. [Under those conditions,] the plant is under stress so it's
more susceptible to other stress factors.",1785,HGTV_3648_2048314,00.html

?Like all camellias, Camellia sinensis requires an acid, well-drained, moist soil.?
?Practically speaking, camellias are best grown in the eastern third
of Texas. The combination of acid soil, rainfall and temperatures are
much more conducive to success with all three of the species mentioned
in East Texas. Even there, camellias are likely to require
considerable attention to watering, mulching and soil amendment than
some gardeners are willing to provide.?
?Another possibility for growing camellias is to place them in large
containers. Growing camellias in my College Station soil and water is
not very practical, but I have a fairly large specimen growing in a
22-inch clay pot that is thriving on an open porch where it receives
morning sun and afternoon shade. I also provide water from a cistern
containing rainfall runoff from the roof. Our local water has too much
sodium for continued success with camellias or many other ornamental
plants. The soil mix I have used is about 1/2 sphagnum peat moss, 1/4
sharp builder?s sand, and 1/4 compost.?

?In good soil fertilizing is not essential, and any applications
should be light. Camellia or Azalea fertilizer may be applied at the
end of the blooming and followed, if desired, by a second light
application in June. Nitrogen fertilizer should not be applied late in
the season because this extends the growing period.?
?New plants should be watered thoroughly once a week during dry
spells. Established plants require less watering except in times of
prolonged droughts. Sprinkling of the foliage, however, on hot summer
evenings is beneficial to plant and flower bud development. Also be
certain the plants do not dry out during or cold and dry winters.
Spray water on the plants only when the temperature is above

Winter Care:
?Because camellia growers enjoy a wider range of cultivars than what
Nature will allow in a marginal climate (as in the Washington, DC.,
area), some cultivars will benefit being protected from winter's winds
and temperatures.
Dehydration is a big killer of camellias; however, with proper
precautions more sensitive cultivars can endure the winter and give
enjoyment to the grower. Depending on how the camellias are grown,
there are basically two forms of protection - outside of a greenhouse
- that will allow the plants to survive a harsh winter.

If the camellias are planted in the ground, they are best grown 3 to 6
feet from the foundation of a house where the warmth of the house can
aid in the protection. Also, by constructing cylinders - made of 2"
mesh wire, burlap on wooden frames, or microfoam - around the plant
and filling with (preferably, oak) leaves to near the top of the plan,
the camellias will be insulated against the winds which cause a burn
effect. Microfoam is a spongy plastic material, usually in sheets 1/4"
thick. In the spring when the cylinders are removed, the leaves are
raked away, composted, and used in the garden to enrich the soil.
If the camellias are grown in container, simply lay the plants on
their sides and cover with microfoam which acts as a blanket. A sheet
of microfoam will be more effective if it is sandwiched between two
sheets of 4 mil clear plastic. All edges of the "blanket" are weighted
down with bricks, etc., to seal in moisture and to provide insulation.
Plants should be covered before any hard freezes and uncovered in the
spring. The most tender of cultivars have successfully endured the
winter using this method. Furthermore, do not be surprised to find
blooms on the plants when the covering is removed.?

?LOCATION. Some camellias can be grown in full sun, although most grow
and produce better flowers in partial shade where the blooms and
foliage are protected from sunburn. However, camellias in dense shade
often become spindly and produce fewer blooms. A site under pine trees
is ideal because pines provide filtered light year-round for growth,
winter protection, and natural mulch from the pine needles. Do not
plant camellias where hardwood shade trees with shallow root systems
will compete with the camellias for nutrients and water. Avoid windy,
exposed sites since wind can be detrimental for camellias in winter
and summer.?
?SOIL. Camellias will grow in sandy, loamy, or clay soils that vary
greatly in their water-holding capacity and in the presence of the
essential elements of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). All
soils contain these elements and may also contain the trace elements
of iron, magnesium, copper, calcium, and others. Good garden loam
containing organic matter (leaf mold, compost, or humus) would be
expected to contain these essential elements as well as the trace
elements to some degree. Camellias do well in soils with an acid
reaction (pH 5.0 to 6.5) and do poorly in alkaline conditions (pH
above 7.0).?

?SOIL AERATION. The top growth of all plants is directly related to
the extent and vigor of the root system. Physical characteristics of
the soil, such as air and water-holding capacity, determine, to a
large extent, the growth and useful activity of plant roots. An ideal
soil is actually composed of 50 percent soil particles and 50 percent
pore space half filled with water.

A healthy root system results in vigorous foliage growth in camellias.
Excessive soil water fills the air spaces and reduces the oxygen for
respiration by the roots. Too much soil water causes the accumulation
of carbon dioxide and other gases, which can be toxic to the roots and
can provide a favorable environment for root-rotting fungi. Thus,
excessive soil water kills plant roots leaving the plant unable to
absorb adequate water.?

?Feeding: Every 2-3 weeks, spring-autumn. Use a fertilizer such as
Miracid, formulated for acid-loving plants, at half- strength. Do not
fertilize while the plant is in bloom. The plant may also benefit from
administering chelated iron 2-3 times a year.?

?Propagation: By seed, soaking in warm water, for 24 hours, and then
removing the outer casing. Fast germinating. Also hardwood cuttings
can be taken from winter-summer, although rooting is slow and
difficult. The use of rooting hormone and bottom heat of 72F is
recommended. Air-layering is possible.?

?Camellias can be planted at any time of the year, provided they are
given proper care, but are usually planted in fall or spring.  They
are shallow-rooted plants that will not do well if planted too deeply
or mulched too heavily.  One good way of planting a new Camellia is to
dig a hole, leaving an un-dug area in the middle to rest the plant on.
 This prevents settling which could cause the plant to sink too low
into the soil.  Do not add organic matter to the soil at planting time
- just fill the hole back in with the excavated dirt.  Being slow
growers, Camellias are slow to become established, so care should be
taken to eliminate competition from tree roots and weeds during this
establishment phase.

?Camellias need well-drained soil rich in organic material for
establishment. Because camellias are slow-growers, they are slow to
get established. Competition for water is the one critical thing in
establishment. They thrive and bloom best when sheltered from full sun
and drying winds. Older camellia plants can thrive in full sun when
they are mature enough to have their roots shaded by a heavy canopy of

Camellias can be planted any time of the year (preferably from
mid-October to November and from mid-March to mid-April) provided they
are properly planted and mulched and checked for water frequently.
Camellias are shallow-rooted plants. They must be planted shallowly.
It is recommended to dig a large, deep planting hole to cut the roots
of neighboring trees, which will otherwise compete for water with the
newly planted camellia. Also remove stones and break up heavy clay
soils. Partially fill the hole with loose soil before planting the
camellia shallowly.

Soil moisture should be conserved by using a 2- to 3-inch layer of
mulch. Camellias prefer a slightly acid soil and light applications of
acid plant food may be used to maintain dark-green, attractive
foliage. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer label. Do not use
more than called for. Burned leaf edges and excessive leaf drop
usually indicate overfertilizing.?

?Camellias are relatively easy to grow as long as they are planted in
well drained soil and in light shade. For happiest plants, provide
relatively moist rich organic soil with plenty of room to grow. To our
clay soils I add 4-6 inches of rotted mulch or leaves and till this in
as deep as possible over the whole planting area. I have left
scattered tall pines to provide filtered light part of the day, and
have also planted conifers such as Cryptomeria to provide wind
protection in the future. In China I saw Camellias growing in similar
conditions; the overstory trees were huge evergreen oaks and the
Camellias were 20 to 30 feet tall. In the last few years hurricanes
and ice storms have removed most of the scattered pines I had
carefully preserved and I am left with lots of sun on my Camellias. A
few plants show winter cold and sun injury but most plants are
flourishing with heavy bud set and multiple flushes of growth each
year. Often more sun is better than less sun as there is less
competition from trees and more water and nutrients for the Camellias.
For the best leaf color and perfect flowers, some winter shade is
beneficial. In colder areas wind protection and winter shade reduces
cold damage. Gardeners can achieve success by planting Camellias under
evergreen trees, near buildings and fences or protected by lath to
provide wind protection and winter shade. Mulch is also important to
protect the roots from freezing although I try to keep mulch from
touching the trunk of the plants.

In the first year extra effort should be spent to establish the
plants. Sufficient water is the most important need of the plant and
it is necessary to water heavily so that the entire root ball is
moistened. Between waterings the roots should begin to dry out before
the next application of water. For northern areas spring planting
allows the plant to acclimate before hard freezes. For extreme
northern areas a wrap of burlap and leaves or a micro-foam tent
(described in Dr. Ackerman's book) helps small plants through the
first few winters since a larger established plant can survive hard
winters more easily. In general two or three year plants establish
better than very young plants.

Once established, Camellias are quite low maintenance. Droughts reduce
flowerbud set and growth but rarely kill Camellias. A light
fertilization in spring will increase growth but is not necessary for
healthy plants. Without pruning most varieties develop into very
nicely shaped bushes and will bloom quite well. Cutting back long
shoots and other pruning should be done just after blooming.?
?Growing Camellias in Cold Climates by Dr. William L. Ackerman clearly
states the methods, varieties and cautions of growing Camellias in
USDA zone 7 and colder. Customers often ask for a good book on growing
Camellias and I highly recommend this book for colder areas such as
Washington, DC and north. I also find the information on growing
Camellias appropriate for us in North Carolina although I have not
used micro-foam for winter protection. This book covers a wide range
of subjects relating to Camellias not just cold hardiness. For example
Camellia breeding and diseases are both discussed and this is relevant
to all Camellia growers. Hardy varieties are described with color
photos of most of the varieties. $35.00 plus $5.00 for Shipping &

Amazon has the same book for less and free shipping:

Once you get your seedlings to grow, you?ll need to worry about pests!

?As to a source of tea seed, there is a US tea grower that I am aware
of, called American Classic Tea, that sells the plants. They may be
able to help you. A contact name there is Sarah Fleming McLester,
located at 6617 Maybank Highway, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487; telephone

Camellia Forums:

I hope this answer proves useful to you. If any part of this answer is
unclear, before rating, please request an Answer Clarification. I will
be happy to respond to this question.

Happy tea growing!

Sincerely, Crabcakes

Search Terms

cultivating camellia sinensis + seeds
planting camellia seeds + deep or depth
soil needs + camellia sinensis
growing camellias
fertilizer + camellias
jeff_jackson-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Google Answers is amazing.

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy