Expert garden advice from the RHS: How can I keep my camellia happy?

The experts at the RHS answer your gardening questions...

Question: I've just bought a camellia for some early colour and intend keeping it in a container. Do I need to get special compost? And where is the best place to position it so I can be sure of lots of flowers every year? Any other tips to keep it happy?

Answer: Camellias are ideal shrubs to welcome the spring and need little maintenance, other than a good supply of water. They love a slightly acidic soil, so buy a compost that is ericaceous. Since your camellia will live in a container permanently, look for a John Innes ericaceous compost: this is more robust than a soil-less type that tends to lose its structure more quickly.

Choose a container just a couple of centimetres wider than the pot the camellia come in, so that there is no danger of the plant becoming waterlogged in winter.

For masses of spring flowers, water your camellia well through the growing season, but especially in August and September when it is initiating flower buds for the following spring. A controlled release fertiliser such as Miracle-Gro is great to mix in with the compost when you pot up, and will supply enough feed for the whole season.

Use a liquid fertiliser the following year and pot your camellia into a slightly larger pot every couple of years.

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