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Cold winter so far for camellias

Pv Picotte
December 17, 2017

I mentioned in another camellia post that I had purchased a young April Dawn - I was advised by Logees where I purchased it not to put it out for the first year. So I am keeping it in the house -- except during the day. I put it out when it reaches 25 degrees - does anyone have any thoughts on that? How cold can I let it be? I would like to put it out sooner but don't know if I should. Thanks.

Comments (18)

  • luis_pr

    Hello, Pv Picotte. In 6b, I would wait to plant it in the Spring too. But, the moving in and out reminds me of similar things I did with other shrubs.... Oh, memories... In your zone, I would just keep it in the garage starting in the Fall; then in Spring you can try moving it out early if conditions/forecasts warrant it.

    Personal experience: moving potted hydrangeas that leaf out early, back and forth like that, was tiresome, as I learned the hard way. My winters are mild, compared to yours, which is why I started taking some non-camellia shrubbery in and out one year too early in the winter. But at night, it gets cold so I had to move shrubs in and out and, all this moving it in=out=in=out gets old if done often. Eventually, after maybe 2-3 weeks??, my back started saying that this was not such a good idea so I quit. LOL!!! ;o) Hee hee hee.

    Buuuut, here is what I was able to do lately. i do the moving later closer to Spring. But because my winters are now even milder than before, my Spring happens much earlier.... So don't do this now but later inSlri Aprilish: I start moving some potted plants in-out-in-out in Jan - March instead of in the Fall... but again... that is because my winters are becoming quite warm and the warm spells are lasting longer. you can try in April, late March at earliest.

    Two years ago was a warm record! I put non-tropical stuff outside in January (bunch of leafing out oakleaf hydrangeas, etc) when the long term forecast had no temps below freezing starting in January. It was wild!!! I had roses blooming in January alongside leafing out hydrangeas, blooming quinces, blooming azaleas, blooming camellias and blooming winter honeysuckle (forsythia died the year before due t drought but it would have been interesting to see if it too bloomed then). I had never had that happen before! Wow!

    Information only... somewhere around 25 degrees is when camellia flower buds can get zapped. Not a very exact temperature number as there is a mix of things that can cause bud kill (others are amt of sunlight, soil moisture, etc). The plants themselves can do fine in even lower temperatures but flower buds start to have issues somewhere in the lower to mid 20s. Sometimes when cold, the plant goes dormant, does not kill the buds, temporarily stops blooming until weeks/months later; or the plant delays the start of blooming; other times, there is bud drop which is when the flower buds are killed, look brown and fall after a while.

    Bud drop info: Wild temps (very high and low temps) can make camellia buds fall so I recommend keeping them more static and protected place. I get bud drop if temps zoom to the 70s and start falling down at night much below freezing (the buds have not hardened enough so they die). Sometimes on occurrence does it and sometimes it happens after several days worth of that.

    So keep it in the garage/basement (away from vents which direct drying winds but close to indirect light sources) until after two weeks after your average date of last frost. Make a note in a wall calendar or in an electronic calendar to do a finger test on the soil regularly to see if it feels dry (assuming the soil will not freeze).

    PS - Warning : do not try moving tropicals out early without first checking what low temps they can tolerate.

    Pv Picotte thanked luis_pr
  • Pv Picotte

    Thank you for your wealth of info. I must tell you however, that this camellia is in a 6" pot and it is the only pot I move about. It goes from my living room to the front porch - probably 10 steps, so not really a bother. Also, I don't have a garage. I do appreciate the info however regarding the 25 degree bud-drop line. I do not put it out below 25 degrees - so should be ok. Thanks again.

  • luis_pr

    oh, it sounds quite small. How tall is it? I would not plant or leave outside a new small shrub unless it has been outside since around Spring-ish. That lets the plant develop a root system that will allow it to handle a 6B winter. Since it is small, I would just let it inside in a humid location, with indirect sun, away from vents that blow hot/cold air towards it. Check it weekly to see if the soil feels dry or almost dry. Plant it outside after all chance of freezes/frosts has passed (maybe 2 weeks after your avge date of last frost).

  • Pv Picotte

    It's just a "baby". Probably 14". Will plant in the spring but do worry about the weather anymore. Lots of cold from the Arctic keeps traveling on the jet stream to our area. Zone 6b may end up being a 5...

  • luis_pr

    Ugh, I will blow wind from my area to yours to see if that helps. It has been warm during the days although we are now at 49, which for meeeee is cold. LOL! Ha!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I would just add that "last frost date" has really no bearing on any hardy woody shrub planting. The cautions about using last frost dates as a planting guide are directed at temperature sensitive plants like annuals or tender perennials, never to trees, shrubs or hardy perennials.......these are all considered "frost tolerant" plants and you can plant out as soon as the soil is workable.

    Plant roots are the parts most vulnerable to cold temperatures, which is typically obviated by their being planted in the ground. In a container - and a small one at that - they are far more susceptible to cold damage. So keeping it indoors may make the most sense in a colder climate. I would avoid the taking it back and forth indoors to out, as the plant will not be happy with those sorts of wide temperature swings. If inside, keep in a very cool location with bright but indirect light.

    When it comes time to plant in the ground, you will need to gradually acclimate the plant to outdoor conditions. Too much of a shock to take directly from indoors to plant out.

    Pv Picotte thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • luis_pr

    PS - The reason for the suggestion was only concern for new foliage that might get zapped.

    Pv Picotte thanked luis_pr
  • Vicissitudezz

    I think keeping your plant indoors until spring is a wise move. Is there a part of the house that stays cool and gets indirect sun? Camellias like cool temps in the winter, so they don't make great houseplants. I understand that this is a temporary thing, but indoor heat may not suit your plant. Don't overwater, but also try to keep the soil from drying out. If you stick your finger into the dirt, you should be able to tell if it's dry.

    The in and out shuffle probably isn't necessary, but if your house is very warm and dry, your plant may enjoy the occasional outing when you have temps above freezing.

    Good luck,


    Pv Picotte thanked Vicissitudezz
  • Pv Picotte

    Thanks to all and I have noted your thoughts regarding the in/out biz. I move it from a "house-cool" situation -- 64 degrees to my outside sheltered porch - and back in at late day. Also no direct sun in either location. It is going to warm up a little more in R.I. in the next few days -- think it will enjoy the trip. I know it's hard to tell if the cold has affected it negatively but it still looks quite healthy and vigorous. Time will tell but I will take all of your input into consideration going forward. Thanks again.

    This is another camellia (High Fragrance) from last year - I walked it in and out and it bloomed quite nicely - I hope my April Dawn does as well. Thanks again.

  • vvasabi

    I would also suggest not to move camellias in and out. The temeperature difference can be too large between the two to stress them unnecessarily. I suggest putting them at a really bright spot (preferably even a few hours of direct sun) inside and leaving them be. So far, my sasanquas inside have bloomed without a problem, and japonicas have started to open a few flowers as well.

    I maintain a cool temperature of about 70 °F inside and a humidity of about 50%, with the help of a humidifier. I find my japonicas and sasanquas do just fine in front of a west-facing window. Likewise, my sweet osmanthus plant has been blooming well at the same spot.

    Hope this helps.

    Pv Picotte thanked vvasabi
  • Pv Picotte

    My house runs around 66 in day and 55 at nite. I can't sleep in a warm house so the camellia is quite happy with that nite temp. Right now I'm keeping it in my bathtub which has a bright skylight overhead so lots of good light during the day. The temp in there is about 60. Guess I'll stick with that location for the rest of winter. Everyone seems to agree moving back and forth not a good idea. OK - I get it! Thanks to all.

  • luis_pr

    What kind of humidifier do you use, vvasabi?

  • vvasabi

    Luis, I use a cold mist humidifier, one that draws dry air thru wet sponges. I don’t claim that it has a positive effect on the plants, though. The humidifier is used mostly to make the air more comfortable for people. There is another indoor location that I keep camellias at but does not use a humidifier. It does have a lower temperature of about 60 to 65.

    Pv Picotte, I agree that it is more comfortable to keep the house cool in the winter. I cannot stand the hot and dry air from central heating. You are right that 55 is an ideal temperature for camellias in winter. But, wow, 55 is kinda cold for inside. Also, I’m not sure if I would give up the bathtub for my camellias, especially during winter. I hope you have other backups!

    Pv Picotte thanked vvasabi
  • Pv Picotte

    Well here's the deal. Right now we are experiencing super cold days and nights. The thermostat is set to have heat come on at 55 (normally set to 60 when not so cold outside) and I am in bed and burrowed down under many blankets. That works fine for me. When I get up, I turn the heat up to 66 and that is the temp all day. The bathroom however is cooler. The bathtub availability is not a problem. I just move the camellia when I take a shower and heat the bathroom up. I put it back in when the bathroom cools down and at night so I guess it's pretty much getting on average about 60 degrees. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)

    "My house runs around 66 in day and 55 at nite."

    True New Englander LOL. I would freeze under such a regime.

    But useful to have this thread because I am thinking of leaving the camellia I'm trying to cross inside all winter. I leave my house at 67 round the clock. Years ago before I started putting most wintering plants in the garage, I definitely had some BLEs in the house, but cannot remember if a camellia was among them. Most notably were the "hardy citrus" I was trying to size up...and size them up I did. Over maybe 3 years, they went from cutting size to 3/8" caliper. But the first polar vortex winter finished them off! Very bad luck in terms of picking a year to plant them. However a slightly hardier 'Dunstan seedling' survives to this day...it had been bought a couple years earlier and was larger...although it's probably still several years away from flowering and fruiting. I just cut a huge overhanging red maple branch to give it more sun...$$$$ but had to be done.

    Pv Picotte thanked davidrt28 (zone 7)
  • Pv Picotte

    BLE....??? Funny about freezing regimen--I am a California transplant but have been back here for over 30 years so I guess I have adapted. Believe me I am down deep in those covers at nite - refreshing upon arising tho -- ha ha...considering my age, guess I'm not doing too badly. Close to 80.

    Your comment, but the "first polar vortex winter " finished them off. After you had invested 3 years of taking care. That's what concerns me. I think so many changes are happening with the weather that my young zone 6 camellia won't last one winter outside. Maybe I'll just bonsai it and handle it the way I am now - outside f, s, s - in the bath tub in the winter...

    Your Dunstan (chestnut tree?) sounds exciting. Good luck with it.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)

    Nope, 'Dunstan' is another hardy citrus! Dunstan citrumelo I think. It's one of the hardiest besides the thoroughly inedible Poncirus trifoliata. I cannot remember the other two off the top of my head, one was probably a 'Yuzu'.

    Pv Picotte thanked davidrt28 (zone 7)
  • socalnolympia

    I have a Dunstan citrumelo too.

    In the PNW we don't really have cold snaps, but that may be because it takes so long in the year for things to finally begin warming up. (That and also the cool oceanic waters means a lack of storms to bring in freak freeze later in the year)

    Pv Picotte thanked socalnolympia

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