Planting Your Spring Purchases

planting camellias

I’m just back from the Spring Sale benefiting the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, where I bought a species camellia. The first thing I have to do when planting camellias is decide where to site the plant. A little research shows that camellias do best in well drained, acid soil with shade from the direct afternoon sun. Once I find a spot I think might meet these criteria, I dig a test hole.  I find lots of organic matter in the soil from years of rotted leaves, good drainage (the hole does not hold water) and shade from intense sunlight.

Now I dig a serious hole, twice the width of the plastic pot and about as deep, taking care to break the soil up into fine particles.
Next I pop the plant out of the pot and shake or wash that planting media off the roots, leaving me with what looks like a dirty mop.
Down on my knees and using my gloved hands, I scoop dirt out of the hole sufficient to place the root ball, all splayed out, into the hole. This hole is WIDE and SHALLOW. With my hands again, I pull dirt back over the exposed roots and then press down upon the soil to compress the soil down upon the roots. The plant at this point is slightly above grade, and I know that in the next several months the planting will sink some. The last thing I want is for my plant to sink below grade, which can result in a slow death from waterlogged roots, especially in our clay soil.
I mulch with a ring of pine straw, and then give her a good, slow soaking. An orange flag reminds me that I have a plant requiring extra attention. After a week or so, I fertilize LIGHTLY with a time release, complete granular fertilizer. I will water regularly until fall rains begin after Thanksgiving. I’ll mulch again with a thick layer of pine straw in July or August.
Now, get those plants into the ground. Every day of beautiful spring weather is wasted if you procrastinate. Get to digging.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *