Camellia are another stunning flowering tree or shrub which make for an interesting bonsai for those who like flowering species. One of the most commonly used is Camellia japonica, however there are over 200 species of Camellia so a wide range to choose from.

Origins and description

  • Camellia as a genus belongs to the Theaceae family and they are native to Japan and China and are more subtropical and grown widely in the Mediterranean as a garden tree or shrub
  • There bark is silvery and light in colour and the leaves are glossy or shiny and dark green and fairly leathery in texture and evergreen
  • The flowers appear in early winter through to spring and the colours are red, white or pink and can be single, semi-double, anemone form, Peony form, double or formal double
  • There are even flower size classes from small (5-7.5cm across) through to very large (>12.5cm across) and flower size, form and colour are determined by variety, cultivar, soil, aspect and cultivation methods

Places to buy Camellia’s

  • They can be bought in garden centres, from specialist growers and bonsai nurseries and they make an attractive compact bonsai and offer a stunning floral display and maintain this if kept in cool constant conditions


  • They prefer to be kept moist throughout the summer but slightly drier over winter but do not let them fully dry out


  • Feed during the growing season after flowering and use a liquid feed but do not feed over the winter so during spring to autumn


  • They require repotting every 2-4 years and this should be done in spring after flowering
  • Root pruning should be carried out at the same time as repotting but only lightly
  • The first root pruning should coincide with the trimming of the foliage because the roots are fairly superficial
  • Carry out gradual root work over a period of years if necessary as opposed to all in one season
  • Peat and sand or akadama are suitable soils to use and they tend to prefer acid soils


  • They can be kept outdoors all year in a cool, airy position but in summer ensure they are in partial shade and ensure they are protected over winter
  • They can be kept indoors but only if the conditions are cool and around 10-15 degrees Celsius


  • Pruning in Spring after flowering but before growth buds break for established bonsai plants
  • Prune young plants to shape any time and to encourage bushy growth reducing thin leggy shoots by two or three buds or entirely cutting them out
  • Cut back established plants by minimal pruning of the previous seasons growth cutting back just above old wood
  • Renovate by hard pruning and carry out large pruning cuts in spring


  • Wiring can be carried out on branches at anytime but preferable time is late spring to auutmn
  • Only wire shoots from late summer once they have become mature and slightly woody
  • Do not apply wire to flower shoots
  • Be careful when wiring as branches can be fragile and break easily


  • Cuttings can be difficult


Author Date Title Publisher ISBN
Adams, Peter 1991 Successful Bonsai Growing Ward Lock 0-7063-7040-6
Adams, Peter 1993 Successful Bonsai Shaping Ward Lock 0-7063-7138-0
Ainsworth, John 1988 The art of indoor bonsai, cultivating tropical, sub tropical and tender bonsai Ward Lock 0-7063-6704-9
Albex, Morten 2007 Majesty in miniature Shohin Bonsai unlocking the secrets of small trees Stone Lantern Publishing 978-0-9767550-6-7
Benz, Willi 2002 Bonsai Kusamono Suiseki A Practical Guide for Organizing Displays with Plants and Stones Willi Benz 3-00-009322-2
Bricknell, Christopher & Joyce, David 1996 The Royal Horticultural Society Pruning & Training A fully inustrated Plant-by Plant Manual Dorling Kindersley 0-7513-0207-4
Brown, George E 2004 The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers Timber Press 0-88192-613-2
Buczacki, Stefan 1998 Best Pruning Hamlyn 0-600-59022-4
Coussin, Craig 2007 The handbook of bonsai D&S Books Ltd 1-903327-54-7
Giorgi, Gianfranco 1990 Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Bonsai Imon & Schuster Inc 0-671-73488-1
Hillier, John & Coombes, Allen 1972 The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs David & Charles 978-0-7153-2664-0
Kobayashi, Norio 1962 Bonsai-Miniature potted trees Japan Travel Bureau
Kramer, Fay 1973 Bonsai Miniatures Quick & Easy Shufunotomo co Ltd 07-975322-5
Lesniewicz, Paul 1985 Indoor Bonsai Cassell & Co 0-7137-1700-9
Norman, Ken 2005 The complete practical encyclopedia of bonsai The essential step-by-step guide to creating, growing and displaying bonsai with over 800 photographs Hermes House 978-1-84477-899-7
Tomlinson, Harry 1990 The Complete book of bonsai A practical guide to the art of cultivation of bonsai Dorling Kindersley 0-86318-484-7
Yashiroda, Kan 1960 Japanese Miniature trees their style, cultivation & training Faber and Faber