germinate camellia from seed

Grow Camellia from Seed

I love our readers — have I ever told you that? You guys come up with some of the best questions. Nathan in Utah asks how to growe camellia from seed and that’s a darned good question. It’s easier done with cuttings but it is possible by seed. The problem with growing it from seed is that you won’t see a camellia on the plant for about seven years, and they don’t come true from seed. In fact, the American Camellia Society says that it’s rare that you will get a decent flower from a camellia propagated from seed. But, hey, you asked, so let’s get to it.

What you’ll need:

  • Panty hose
  • Planting mix
  • Sandwich bag
  • Thermos, optional
  • 1-gal. nursery pot
  • Spray bottle
  • Small scissors

Collect the camellia seeds

The trick to collecting camellia seeds is getting to the pod before the seed coat hardens. Keep an eye on the plant in early fall because the harder the coat is, the less likely the seed is to germinate. Pick the pod when it begins to crack. If the seeds inside – typically from one to nine of them – are white, you’ve jumped the gun and need to give the pods a bit more time. Mature seeds are brown or black.

Growers with the Southern California Camellia Society have an ingenious idea for collecting the seeds. Attach the leg and feet portion of a pair of panty hose over the seed pod, securing it to the stem with a clothes pin. That way, when the pod splits all the way open, the seeds fall into the hose and not on the soil where you may not find them. Now, Nathan, I’m picturing you going into your local drug store to pick up a pair of panty hose. TIP: For your purposes, size and color don’t matter.

Prepare the camellia seeds for planting

If the seeds are fresh and the outer coat hasn’t hardened feel free to plant them right away. Use a commercial soil mix labeled for camellias or use a combination of peat moss and sand. Soak the peat moss for an hour or two before using it to fill a plastic sandwich bag one-third full. The camellia seed should germinate from within one to three months, but don’t give up on them if they don’t — some may not appear until spring.

If the seeds have hardened you’ll need to soak them for 24 hours in 180 degree Fahrenheit water. The best way to ensure the water remains hot is to soak the seeds in a thermos.
Plant the Seeds

Use a 1 gallon pot to germinate the camellia seeds. Fill it with the aforementioned camellia planting mix or use equal parts of peat moss and sand. Again, soak the peat moss to soften it before attempting to mix it with sand. Wring out the excess moisture too or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands. Set the camellia seed on the surface of the mix since they need light to germinate. They need to be kept moist too, so either bottom water or use a spray bottle of water to mist them.

There is still a lot of work to do when the seeds germinate – fodder for the next camellia post. Until then, happy planting!