Waxing Camellia Blooms

Nearly a lost art, waxing camellias is one of the first memorable things I learned when I moved from Virginia to the Deep South (eons ago) and joined a garden club. My instructor, a grande dame of the Columbia, South Carolina Garden Council, was a fun and vivacious flower-lover who was eager to share her knowledge. The gift of her tutelage was not lost on me; it is her enduring legacy.

Waxed camellia

Waxed camellia

Creating the porcelain-like bloom of a waxed camellia is relatively simple, but instructions must be followed to the letter to ensure success. Before you begin, note that pink, white, and variegated blooms are usually more successful than red, and that single and semi-double forms will produce a better result than double flowers.

Always collect flowers early in the morning when they are at their peak. If necessary, clean them with a dry, soft brush or gently blow away dirt and debris. Trim stems to 3 or 4-inches long and remove all but a couple of leaves. Keep stems in water while preparing the wax.

To begin the process, heat five pounds of paraffin wax with one and a half pints of mineral oil in a double boiler or a heavy, four-quart saucepan. Once melted, cool or heat the wax to exactly 138 degrees F. Temperature is critical. If too hot, the wax will scorch the bloom; if too cool, it will coat the flower too thickly.

When the temperature of the wax is correct, hold leaves away from the flower and dip the bloom into the mixture with a sweeping motion. Twirl the flower as you move it through the mix, being careful not to touch the hot pan, and then lift it sideways from the wax. Give the bloom a gentle shake or two before dipping the bloom into a bowl of ice-cold water. Again, plunge the flower with a sweeping sideways motion to preserve the natural shape of the flower. Hold the bloom in the cold water for a few seconds, and then place it aside to dry.

Hold leaves away from stem

Hold leaves away from stem

Lift gently to preserve flower form

Lift gently to preserve flower form

Twirl in cold water

Twirl in cold water

Set aside to dry

Set aside to dry

Waxing a camellia bloom will preserve its beauty for several weeks. Handle flowers gently, however, as the petals will turn brown if the wax seal is broken. Other blooms can be preserved in a similar manner. As the weather warms and more plants flower, experiment with the branches of quince and forsythia and even stems of narcissus or other bulbs.

23 thoughts on “Waxing Camellia Blooms

  1. Jean

    What fun! I can’t wait to try this! Well, I can wait until this pouring rain lets up. Thank you for these instructions.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      I’ve heard of them being used to decorate a Christmas tree but that is way beyond me. I usually just display a single perfect example on a small cut crystal plate. When I make oodles, I take them to a nursing home to be put on the lunch trays of those who don’t get many visits or gifts. Let your imagination be your guide. (Let me know what think up, creative friend!)

      Reply
  2. Elise Herron

    Thanks Marion!! I remember waxing and sugaring smaller flowers, like pansies, with my grandmother for cakes, but I had no idea you could do camellias! I can’t wait to try this!

    Reply
  3. Julie Smith

    I read directions for doing this a long time ago but never tried it. I’m going to do it as soon as the monsoon is over, and will definitely try it with other blooms, as well. I’m enjoying the blog immensely, by the way!

    Reply
  4. Janet, The Queen of Seaford

    Somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory I have heard of this. Now that I have Camellias, I will have to give it a try. That is a lot of wax and mineral oil for one bloom, might wait until my Camellias are larger and produce more blooms.
    Where in VA did you live? I too moved here from VA, I lived in Seaford (hence the name Queen of Seaford), which is near Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown.

    Reply
  5. Jan Weakland

    This method of waxing camellias was shown on the SCETV gardening show Making It Grow last year. I have tried it with other flowers too – works well with thicker petals, such as daylilies but not well with pansies, etc.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Thanks, RedneckRosarian! Hope you’ll visit again. Unfortulately, I’m all shade in my current garden. Looking for those few roses that will grow with just a tad of sun. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

      Reply
  6. nelinthegarden

    I love your website. My camellia here in Wales UK are struggling because we have had so much rain. Your very thoughtful idea of taking your waxed camellia to people who do not receive many visitors in nursing homes is just lovely, they must be so appreciated.

    Reply
  7. KidazzleInk

    Could you use these waxed blossoms to decorate a cake for a High Tea party? I guess you’d just have to ensure they weren’t from a poisonous variety of flower though. But there are lots of flowers you could well use. Very pretty.

    Reply
  8. cmlee1Charles Lee

    Hello Marian,
    Please let me introduce myself. I am Charles Lee, Editor of Camellia News, the national journal of Camellias Australia Inc. I have read many articles on waxing camellias, but most do not have the useful photos of the process like in your Blog, nor do they state which temperature scale is used, Fahrenheit or Centigrade (Celsius). One can only imagine the disaster that may eventuate when using 138 C, although in hindsight a double boiler would not reach that temperature.
    I plan to do an article on waxing in our journal and seek your permission to use photos and texts from your waxing instructions Blog please? I will provide suitable references to the Blog and I can send you a complementary copy of the journal if you would like, a postal address would be necessary please.
    Great article.
    Regards,
    Charles

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Charles,

      Hello! You are welcome to use photos and instructions from my blog, information which was provided to me through my involvement with the Garden Clubs of South Carolina. Pass it on!

      Thanks for the attribution. My address is: Marian StClair, 357 Riverside Drive, Greenville, SC, 29605.

      Good luck with your publication.

      Reply
  9. Myrle Diefendorf

    Marian, I am bringing several blooms of the old fashioned Camellia Magnoliaflora which is a lovely light subtle shade of pink,formal arrangement of petals..should wax beautifully. Can’t wait to see your program Monday afternoon at Clemson Garden Club. Myrle Diefendorf

    Reply

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