Camellia sinensis can be successfully grown in containers as long as you follow some guidelines!
The most important thing to remember about Camellia sinensis Tea Plants is that they will absolutely not tolerate wet soils or soils that do not drain properly. Make sure you pay close attention to the recommendations we have for potting soils.
Growing in Containers—tips
- Choose a container that is about twice as large as the root mass of your plant.
- AVOID containers that are too large or you could have uneven water and nutrient distribution which could lead to trouble with your plant. Keep plant roots near the top of the pot.
- Make sure your container has plenty of drain holes.
- Fill the bottom with larger pebbles or stones so that water can drain well to the bottom of the pot and out. Avoid clogging holes.
- Clay will pull more water out of the soil—so if you must use clay, pay close attention to your plant’s water needs.
- Don’t let your container sit in a saucer of water. Drain water off so that water will not be wicked back up into the pot.
Choose the correct potting soil for Camellia Sinensis Tea Plants
Camellias sinensis grows well in soils that are organic in nature and well drained. The biggest mistake people make with Camellia sinensis Tea Plants is buying the traditional bagged potting mixes that contain a lot of peat. These are commonly used for bedding plants and veggies. These soils are not suitable for growing tea. A little peat is ok, but using soils that are comprised mostly of peat moss will cause excessive moisture in the soil and will lead to poor drainage which will suffocate the roots of your camellias. We do not recommend that you use these commercial bagged mixes.
Tsubaki Tea Soil
We use a mixture of three different materials when we make our soil. We use a very fine, ground aged pine bark. The pieces are about 1/4 inch. We add larger pieces of bark to the smaller mix. The larger pieces are 3/4 to 1″. Then we add peat moss. A little is good, a lot is not.
Use this soil mix for any containers or it can be used to amend soils. Put rocks or other material in the bottom to keep the drain holes from clogging. This mix is excellent for amending your garden soil.
Our Soil Recipe
1 gallon Soil Conditioner/Mulch (Finely ground bark less than 1/8 – 1/4” pieces)
1 gallon Mini Nuggets (Small bark pieces 3/4 to 1”)
1 Cup Peat moss (ground)
2 Tablespoons Dolomite Lime
Finding Ingredients Locally
You may be able to find components that are similar to ours in your local garden center. The smaller pieces are usually called bark fines. It is material that is screened when trying to get bigger bark pieces. It is usually called ‘soil conditioner’ in garden centers. The larger pieces may be called mulch or mini nuggets. These are small – approximately 3/4 to 1″ pieces. We have seen similar bark pieces in orchid planting mixes. If you live in areas where there is a pine industry, you shouldn’t have any problems finding components. Peat moss is readily available most anywhere.
Soil Mix Alternatives
If you just can not find the ingredients locally, then you can try several other products to come close to our soil mix.
Alternative Soil 2
- 5 Part Miracle Grow Garden Soil For Shrubs & Trees (contains natural materials similar to our bark mix)
- (This is GARDEN SOIL, not potting soil. Make sure it’s for shrub and trees, not the one for Bedding or Vegetables)
- 1 Part Perlite
- No peat moss
- Hollytone – 2-3 tablespoons per one gallon container every 3 months
- Note: This bagged mix may contain fertilizer so be careful of what you add
Alternative Soil 3
We have experimented with several brands of orchid potting soils for use with our tea plants. These soils usually contain the same types of components that make up a our tea soil. Small and large organic pieces of bark along with peat moss are traditionally used. You may have to amend the soil with more peat moss, but it’s a good basis to start with.
Fertilizing Camellia in Containers
Your Camellia sinensis Tea Plants in containers will benefit from regular fertilizing. You can use a liquid fertilizer for containers or a natural granular fertilizer like HollyTone™ . Both of these are formulated for acid loving plants like Camellia sinensis Tea Plants. Liquid feeding will need to be done on a 7-10 day basis to be effective. HollyTone™ can be used about every 6 weeks during the growing season. Avoid traditional granular and timed released fertilizer on plants in containers. Fish emulsions, organic fertilizers, compost teas all work very well with Camellia sinensis.
Repotting Containerized Camellia
Camellia sinensis Tea Plants grown in containers will do very well for many years. You may at some point have the need to repot your plant. Choose a container a little larger than the one you’re growing in. It’s usually best to gradually step up plants on a regular basis instead of putting them in a container that is too large.
If you wish to repot the plant back into the same container, you can trim the roots back somewhat and then repot again. The roots will generate and your plant will be healthier for it.
Grow Your Own Tea with teaplants from www.Tsubakitea.com
I have the best job in the world…I get to walk out of my back door and across the yard to a greenhouse and nursery full of Camellias and do what I love every day. Sometimes, when it’s very hot or very cold or when problems arise I do question my career path, but I always come back to the same place….I’m where I’m supposed to be!