Gibbing: Treat Camellia Buds for Early Blooming

A way to beautify gardens in the late fall is by forcing camellia blossoms to bloom early. This also allows you to avoid losing some less hardy blooms to winter injury due to hard freezes.

Gibbing is a practice used to force early blooms of camellias. Each bud needs to be treated with gibberellic acid (GA) between August 15 and September 15. Not all varieties will respond in the same way to the treatment, but some blooms can be expected within 40 to 45 days.

The method that is the easiest and best is to remove the vegetative bud next to a flower bud. Flower buds are plum and rounded while vegetative buds are smaller and pointed. Remove all but one of the flower buds on a stem if you want to produce a large "show" flower. Then a small drop of GA should be put where the bud was attached.

GA can be bought in an acid and a salt form. Gardeners who have not used GA before should use materials that are already prepared and ready to use. If your local gardening center doesn't carry GA, check with your local camellia society.

For gardeners who have worked with GA before, the solution should be 0.1 ounce GA to 5 ounces of water. GA does not dissolve in water. To make the water more alkaline, or basic, add three or four drops of household ammonia one drop at a time, shaking well in between drops.

Keeping a record of the dates buds were treated with GA and when they bloomed can help determine when to treat camellias for a special occasion. If you have several plants of the same variety, treat them on different days so the blooms will last longer.

Response to treatment among camellias varies depending on the variety. Early- and mid-season flowering varieties tend to respond better to GA treatment than late-season varieties. Some varieties will respond not with earlier blooms, but blooms of a different formation than normal. Others will respond with variations on the normal blossom color.

Some varieties that respond well to forced blooming are Mathotiana, Rosewood, Tiffany, Debutante, Pink Star, Daikagura, Dr. W.G. Lee, Christine Lee, Arejishi, Rosea Superba, High Hat, Pink Perfection, Scented Treasure, Herme, White Giant and Morning Glow.

Source: Ken Tilt, Extension Horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334) 844-5484

Prepared by Jana Huggins, Agricultural Journalism Intern