Featuring thick green, glossy leaves, Camellias are known for their bright stamens and can be found in shades of white, pink, lavender and red. You can find single, semi-double and double flowers. These beautiful puffs of color are loved throughout the South where they bloom in Fall and Winter. Resembling roses, peonies, and anemones, these flowers do not require a green thumb to thrive. If you follow a few guidelines, you will be rewarded with beautiful flowers for years.
Types of Camellias
The two most popular choices are the japonica camellia (Camellia japonica) and the sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua). Choose the more formal-looking japonicas for late fall to spring blooms or the somewhat smaller-flowered sasanqua for flowers in the fall and early winter. For a longer-lasting display, mix and match the two for color from October to April.
Also, Be sure to look at some of the New Varieties of Camellias available including more cold hardiness, fragrance and bloom colors.
- From the Southern Living Plant Collection
Botanical names: Camellia japonica, C. sasanqua
Common name: Camellia
Origin: Native to southern and eastern Asia
Where it will grow: Hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 17.8 degrees Celsius (USDA zones 7 to 9; find your zone); newer hybrids can handle temperatures to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 23.3 degrees Celsius (zone 6)
Typical plant communities:Lightly shaded open forests
Water requirement: Moderate to regular; let the root ball dry out slightly between waterings
Light requirement: Light shade is ideal, though they will handle morning sun; sasanqua camellias are more sun-tolerant
Mature size: From 2 feet to 20 feet tall; most range from 6 to 15 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide
Yuletide’ sasanqua camellia (C. sasanqua ‘Yuletide’), with its single red flowers, is a favorite for December color. Seasonal interest: Long-lasting blooms in fall and winter; attractive leaves in summer When to plant: Fall into winter; spring in colder-winter areas (zones 6 and 7 and colder)
First, choose a spot that gets a light shade or morning sun and dappled afternoon shade that is sheltered from strong winds and sea spray. Then, make sure you have a highly acidic soil(pH levels of 5.6 to 6.5) that is well-draining, as camellias don’t do well in soggy soil. Also, it needs to be rich in organic material. Next, dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Add some soil back into the center of the hole so the top of the root ball will sit 2 to 4 inches above the soil line. Fill in with soil and water thoroughly. Finally, add 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the plant but not over the root ball.
Care of Camellias
Water regularly at first. Once the plant is established, water deeply but less frequently, waiting until the top 1 to 2 inches of soil is dry, but provide water before the plant begins to wilt. Older plants that have thick enough leaf coverage to shade their roots can get by with less water.
Feed with an acid fertilizer designed for azaleas, rhododendrons, and camellias after the flowers have dropped, following package recommendations. Fertilize again in midsummer if growth seems sluggish or foliage looks sparse and begins to lose its deep green color. Water thoroughly the day before you plan to feed. Don’t fertilize after July.
Prune camellias as needed in spring, after they have stopped blooming. Remove dead, broken or crossing branches and shape to keep in bounds or keep them from getting too dense. Cut just above the thickened spot or scar on the branch that indicates where the previous year’s growth ended to encourage thickness. This is also the time to prune if you want to grow your camellia as a small tree or espalier.
Winter: for information on protecting your winter plants visit our blog post here.
Read more about Camellias on Houzz here
Read more about Planting Camellias on Southern Living here
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